Investing in a clean environment is good for business

BUDGET 2020 will be tabled on Friday and will contain the usual spending plans for the various ministries and social programmes in the country for next year.

The annual exercise will be scrutinised for how those plans will lay the foundation for Malaysia in the immediate term.

Initial suggestions point to how the government will likely prioritise spending to drive economic growth as that, together with ensuring a trade surplus, are bedrocks in assuring economic and political stability in the country.

The myriad of spending plans, focusing on the underprivileged, will show the compassionate side of the administration but one aspect of how the Budget needs to be moulded is to drive economic growth higher.

The benchmark FBM KLCI has only been up one year over the past few years and that together with other flashing warning signals have been prevalent in recent times.

With domestic investments flagging, housing in a slump and job creation remaining an issue, measures should be proposed to put more cash in the pockets of Malaysians and to encourage spending.

The risk is the gross domestic products (GDP) growth might still be stuck in the four-percentage point range and for Malaysia, that is not good enough.

The government must lift the lid on the economy and if that means slowing down the planned decline in the fiscal deficit, then so be it.

The US-China trade war has roiled the global economy and international trade, and the government must capitalise on this rare event.

We cannot afford to remain complacent while neighbouring countries welcome global investments and we adopt a more protectionist stance in dealing with regional or global trade.

Over recent months, Malaysians have also seen how environmental degradation has affected our daily lives.

Everything from the contamination disaster in Pasir Gudang, Johor, to the fires in Riau, Sumatra, that choked much of Malaysia in a cloud of haze and that has been a lingering farce for around two decades, signals that it is time for the government to act in aid of the environment.

Yes, bans and limitations on single-use plastic is a step in the right direction.

Images of and news on how sea animals have borne the brunt of our environmental disregard have tugged the strings of compassion.

Climate strikes organised by the youth of the world show the anxiety of the generation that will inherit the planet.

For our part, there need to be more legislative and budgetary allocations to ensure that Malaysia starts moving towards environmental best practices.

Budgetary allocations towards the environment need to be done in consultation with the states of Malaysia, as land and most natural resources are matters of the states.

Money should be allocated towards ensuring our rivers are clean, our forests are maintained and the air that we breathe is free from the toxins that have polluted much of the country.

States should be allowed more development funds only if they offer guarantees that forests that cover about half of Malaysia would not be felled in the name of development and that waters are kept clean.

We can blame the West for doing in the past just what they are asking us not to do now but it is also time for us not to make the mistakes of the developed West and learn from what they are doing to ensure a sustainable Earth and environment for the future of our children.

Furthermore, with the world paying more attention to environmental best practises, doing so is actually good for business.

It is clear how developed countries are using our lax environmental practices against us, and we should acknowledge that spending on keeping the environment clean and sustainable is actually not only good for future business but also that for the future of Malaysia.

By The Star Says
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