THE government has said it loud and clear: it has no choice but to use RM5 billion from the National Trust Fund (KWAN) in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
But, as expected, some quarters, including former prime minister Najib Razak, wasted no time in raising the red flag, simply to gain political mileage.
Aspersions were quickly cast against the government – that the withdrawal, among others, smacked of high-handedness and lack of transparency.
The allegations pointed to impropriety on the part of the Perikatan Nasional government.
Najib poured scorn on the government, describing Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz’s explanation on the government’s rationale to dip into KWAN, which was set up in 1988 to provide alternative financing for development expenditures, for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines as unbelievable.
His other accusation was that the original allocation for the purchase of the vaccines was never accounted for in Budget 2021.
We are facing an uphill battle against Covid-19 and its variants, with the fourth wave said to be imminent.
Critics should have understood better the urgency of reining in the pandemic, hence, the use of the funds.
The government’s determination to achieve herd immunity well before the date should never be compromised because the lives of all Malaysians and others residing in this country matter.
Based on the government’s latest planning, the RM5 billion allocation would be split, with RM3.5 billion for the purchase of vaccines and the balance for expenses relating to the roll-out of the immunisation programme.
Prior to this, the estimated cost for the programme was RM3 billion. The increase, among others, would help expedite the roll-out plan, with targeted completion by year end.
This, of course, is of paramount importance because people’s lives and livelihoods must be protected and safeguarded at all costs.
According to reports, the procurement of vaccines on a speedy basis using the funds is expected to cover 110% of Malaysia’s population to serve as a buffer against this unprecedented health crisis.
More vaccination centres could be rented to accommodate the needs. The utilisation of KWAN, therefore, is vital to ensure the well-being of the people.
The government has pledged that it would replenish the funds in KWAN as soon as the pandemic ends and the government’s financial position improves.
Critics like Najib will stop at nothing to hurl all sorts of allegations against the present government.
Maybe he forgot about 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s RM40 billion debt, which he is implicated in and which can pay for the vaccines eight times over, as said by Tengku Zafrul last week. – May 3, 2021.
* Sofia Ahmad Hamzah reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.