By Clara Chooi
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad admitted today that the Najib administration’s penchant for handing out cash to Malaysians through its various people-centric policies was “very close” to vote buying.
But the former prime minister said the government was running out of time with polls drawing closer as the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition needed a bigger mandate to tighten its grasp on Putrajaya.
“I do not believe in giving money to the people. I believe in giving facilities. But I think when a government has no time and they are facing an election, they make a decision that is easy,” Dr Mahathir (picture) said in his keynote address at the Perdana Leadership Foundation’s CEO Forum 2012 here.
“If you give people money, then they should support (you). Maybe it is not vote-buying... but it is very close to that,” he said, to laughter from the audience.
The government is expected to announce a second round of RM500 cash handouts to lower-income households when Budget 2013 is tabled next week, in a move that is seen as giving Najib and his BN pact’s ratings a boost ahead of polls expected soon.
The first round of handouts under the Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) programme, which involved some five million families and cost taxpayers RM2.6 billion, saw Najib’s approval ratings shoot up to 69 per cent, largely due to a surge of support from low-income households.
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