Comparisons between the government’s Budget 2018 and the opposition Pakatan Harapan’s ‘Alternative 2018 Budget’ were swiftly made once both sides had presented their take on how money should be spent. The respective budgets had their strengths and weaknesses. Of course proponents of the opposition coalition claim its budget is far better or superior to that of the government. Likewise government supporters would rally behind Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak’s budget claiming it to be a comprehensive one.

While the verbal sparring regarding the two budgets has somewhat subsided, an article by Bloomberg recently underscored a positive initiative by the government vis-à-vis empowering women, which may have not received the media attention it warranted.  For those unaware, Dato’ Sri Najib had introduced in Budget 2018 a one-year tax exemption for women who return to work after a break of two years or more, reduced working hours for pregnant women in the public service and increase paid maternity leave for those in the private sector.  The prime minister is also making it mandatory for all new office buildings to have childcare facilities.

Malaysian women should be proud that the government is striving to accommodate their needs in a bid to get more to join or return to the job market. The initiative is not mere lip service. The government recognizes that women could perhaps be the much needed impetus to push Malaysia from being stuck in the middle-income trap to becoming a high income nation. Notably the prime minister had announced in September he would name and shame publicly-listed companies with no women on their boards starting in 2018. He stressed on the need for a 30 percent minimum for women on boards of state companies and allocated RM20 million for entrepreneurship training for females.

Although Malaysian women outperform their male counterparts when it comes to education there are however fewer women in the job market as many exit for a number of reasons. Dato’ Sri Najib’s administration is keen to reverse this downward trend and believes that empowering women by providing a conducive working environment is the way to go. Let us support this endeavor for Malaysia’s future growth.

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