KOTA BHARU (April 18): Most countries, including Malaysia, are facing financial problems and a large budget deficit due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

However, Malaysia’s forecast deficit as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), at 6%, is among the lowest compared with those of other countries, he said.

“The reality is, the whole world is facing constraints and large deficits. In fact, even oil-producing nations are experiencing deficits. Some countries are recording budget deficits of about 10% and even up to 15%,” he told a media conference, following an engagement session with the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) Kelantan office on the state-level Malaysia Population and Housing Census 2020 (Census 2020) here today.

The minister said most countries had to grapple with financial problems due to economic challenges, as well as the world’s largest-ever health crisis.

“That is today’s reality and it’s not something that can be hidden away. It is the biggest economic challenge facing Malaysia and other countries…. We are in debt because our revenue has fallen, while our needs have increased and thus require a larger expenditure, as the government’s priority is to look after the needs of the people,” he said.

Mustapa said regardless of the situation, the government would continue to work hard to revive the country’s economy by devising various strategies, especially in creating job opportunities and empowering micro enterprises.

Last month, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz was reported as saying Malaysia’s fiscal deficit was projected to rise to 6% of GDP this year, from an earlier estimate of 5.4%, following the implementation of the Strategic Programme to Empower the People and Economy (PEMERKASA).

Meanwhile, elaborating on his visit to DOSM Kelantan today, Mustapa said 15 million people, or 46% of the country’s estimated 2020 population of 32.7 million, had been enumerated under the Census 2020 exercise as of April 15.

“In terms of percentage of the population, the Federal Territory of Putrajaya (100%), Johor (65.4%) and Kelantan (60.9%) have the highest response or enumeration rates,” he said, adding that the census process throughout the country is expected to be fully completed by June 30.

He called on Malaysians to give their cooperation either via the online census (e-Census) or face-to-face interviews, due to the importance of the data collected for various purposes, particularly in national socio-economic planning.

“We expect to obtain the findings of the census before the tabling of the 12th Malaysia Plan,” he added.