Khairy: Umno must address health, education and social protection before GE15

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 – Khairy Jamaluddin today called on Umno to offer solutions to the huge gaps in Malaysia’s health and education systems that have been left open by the Covid-19 pandemic, before calling for early general elections.

The Minister of Health, who is an MP for Rembau and Deputy Division Head of Rembau Umno, noted that health and education were not mentioned in Umno Chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s speech today at the general meeting of Umno.

Instead, Zahid spoke mostly about the strength of Umno, after the big victories of Barisan Nasional (BN) in the Melaka and Johor state elections, as he pondered the need to wait for the 15th general election, due to be held by July 2023, if voters were already leaning towards Umno.

“The pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of our health care system,” Khairy said. Astro Awani in an interview on the sidelines of Umno’s general meeting today.

He pointed out that this was why he was proposing to table a white paper in parliament on health care reform to increase public spending on health, not only because of the pandemic, but also because of the Malaysia’s aging population and the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). .

Khairy said last Tuesday he expected to table the White Paper on health care reform and financing in parliament in November, acknowledging the country’s “chronic underinvestment” in the public health system.

“These are questions people want to hear at Umno’s AGM, not just about changing or bringing back the [people’s] mandate,” said Khairy Astro Awani.

“What is our offer to the people? It’s premature for people to say “it’s time to return the warrant”. The fact is that there is still a lot of work.

Khairy also cited the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and school closures on Malaysian students for most of the past two years, leading to a “lost generation”.

“We need to have a program to enable those who have lost educational opportunities in the past two years to catch up in terms of educational skills and basics. Umno must have a policy on how to reduce the education gap that has arisen due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The health minister also pointed out that Zahid’s speech at Umno’s general assembly did not address social protection, after Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob approved the fourth exceptional levy on the employee provident fund (EPF).

EPF said in a statement that contributors under the age of 55 would be allowed to withdraw between RM50 and RM10,000 from April 1 to April 30. They must first fully utilize their retirement savings balance in Account 2 before accessing Account 1.

By the end of 2021, more than 7.4 million ETH contributors, almost half of all contributors, withdrew a total of RM101 billion under the first three special withdrawal facilities – i -Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra – during the pandemic.

“How will the government ensure that the money taken out of EPF – which Umno Youth fought for – will be replenished?” Khairy wondered.

“We gave a short-term solution, a simple solution, a populist solution. It is necessary; I admit that it is necessary. But what are we doing now to ensure that we can replenish our old age protection? This needs to be discussed.

He later told reporters that although Malaysia moves into an endemic phase on April 1, the 15th general election is not expected to take place until the country’s public health situation stabilizes, saying, “It is better to postpone things that may complicate this recovery”.

EPF said last October 31 that withdrawals from the first three special facilities of i-Lestari, i-Sinar and i-Citra left 6.1 million members with less than RM10,000 in their EPF accounts, including 3, 6 million have less than RM1,000.

Bumiputera members represented 78% of the candidates for withdrawal. More than half of EPF members in Bumiputera, or 4.4 million people, have less than RM10,000 in retirement savings in their EPF accounts, while a quarter (two million people) have less of RM1000.

Malaysia generally lacks a strong social welfare system, with inadequate facilities for the elderly in the public sector.

Khairy also maintained that he was a “party man”, pointing out that he never left Umno after BN’s historic defeat in the 2018 general election.

“Wherever the party tells me to go, I will go,” he said, when asked where he would run in the 15th general election.

Joel C. Hicks