Will the operating expenditure of our public universities be cut in the latest budget revision?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 23rd of January 2015

In PM Najib’s recent announcement on the revision to the 2015 Budget, the largest expenditure rationalisation item was an RM3.2 billion review of transfers and grants to statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds, particularly those with a steady revenue stream and high reserves. This is a significant expenditure review and the institutions involved need to know how much of their operational budget will be cut. Of interest to the public is whether and how much funding to the public universities will be affected as a result of this expenditure review.

According to the Economic Report 2014-2015, grants to statutory bodies from the operation expenditure was an estimated RM16.7 billion. A large proportion of these grants are allocated to public institutions of higher learning i.e. our public universities. All of our public universities, with the exception of the International Islamic University, are statutory bodies.

According to the 2015 Budget Expenditure Estimates, RM7.4 billion was allocated for the operational expenditure of 20 public universities. This represents 44% of the total RM16.7 billion allocated to statutory bodies. It seems unlikely that our public universities will not suffer budget cuts as a result of the RM3.2 billion expenditure review for the allocation to statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds. The question is, by how much?

There are more than 120 statutory bodies at the federal level, at least 10 Government Trust Funds and numerous GLCs, most of which receive at least some funding from the federal government.

But because of PM Najib’s failure to table the breakdown of his budget revisions in Parliament, Members of Parliament and I suspect that the affected statutory bodies, GLCs and Government Trust Funds themselves do not know whether or not they have been affected by these expenditure reviews.

It would be unfair for our public universities to suffer major budget cuts when other programs and expenditure items such as the RM30.7 million allocated to PERMATA under the Prime Minister’s Department go unscathed.

Appendix 1: Allocation to the 20 public universities from the 2015 Budget Expenditure Estimates