ALOR STAR: Kedah state government is expanding its social security network for the people while focusing on catalyst projects to sustain economic growth and striving to further reduce its deficit.

Those are among the gist of the RM1.3 billion state Budget 2018 tabled by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah at the state legislative assembly here today.

Of the total, RM855.22 million is being allocated for administrative expenditure while RM257.54 million is being set aside for development expenditures.

Bashah said the state government is projecting a higher revenue of RM779.50 million for 2018 while aiming to trim down the budget deficit from 10.28 per cent this year to 9.71 per cent next year.

The the main strategies of the budget are; to improve social justice and the people's wellbeing, to diversify the state economic base and to achieve sustainable and high yield development.

Bashah said the main thrust of the budget, themed "Continuing Development, Realising Dreams' is the welfare of the people.

"RM9.1 million is being allocated for projects to improve their livelihood, another RM5 million to repair houses of needy families, while another RM1 million is to upgrade houses of worship and racial integration," he said.

Bashah also announced that the monthly allowance from Welfare Department for hardcore poor, single mothers and disabled persons to be increased from RM150 to RM200, RM100 "Dana Warisan Pendidikan Anak Kedah" for all pupils entering Year One next year in the form of National Education Savings Scheme (SSPN-i) and one-off RM600 payment to religious teachers.

"To ease the burden of recent flood victims who were evacuated to relief centres, the state government is increasing the one-off cash aid from RM100 to RM200 while RM18 million allocation will be set aside to carry out flood mitigation and flood risk-reduction projects," he said.

As for public transport sector, Bashah said the stage-bus operations operating between Alor Star and Sungai Petani will be upgraded, which will benefit nearly 90,000 people in the state.

RM1.3 billion state Budget 2018 tabled by Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah at the state legislative assembly here today. Pic by NSTP/AMRAN HAMID

Bashah also announced that the RM500 special one-off token to all haj pilgrims from Kedah introduced this year, will be continued next year.

As a holistic approach to help the needy, Bashah also announced RM20 million allocation to build Asnaf Complex in Alor Star, RM6.5 million to upgrade mosques in the state and RM3 million for Barakah Masjid programme.

He announced that a pilot project to turn mosques into a 'food for the hardcore poor' programme will be carried out at all mosques in Sik and Baling districts.

"To spur the agriculture and agro-based sector growth, RM6.5 million allocation has been set aside to, an increase of 65 per cent compared to the previous budget.

"To encourage the spirit of volunteerism, 'Muafakat Volunteer Brigade' will be set up in all districts," he said.

The Menteri Besar also announced a RM2,000 special payout for over 6,000 civil servants in Kedah under the Budget.

"The first payment will be made this December to ease the financial burden of civil servants whose children are about to begin the new school term; while the second installment will be made before Aidilfitri next year," he added.

Bashah also expressed the state government's gratitude to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for approving various projects and incentives for Kedah and its people under the national Budget 2018.

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