KUALA LUMPUR: The shift from blanket subsidies, including for diesel, towards support that is better targeted to those in need should be welcomed as a positive step towards more equitable, sustainable policies while building fiscal policy space, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Datuk Abdul Rasheed Ghaffour said.

He said the current period of relative macroeconomic stability provides the country with a unique window of opportunity to pursue meaningful reforms and build a brighter future.

“We cannot, nor should we, assume that this window will not soon close upon us. We need to come together to make reforms a reality for Malaysia,” he said in his welcoming address at the Sasana Symposium 2024 here today.

The governor said the case for reforms is very clear.

“Our economic environment is constantly changing, and as we spot risks and weaknesses, our policies must evolve to match.

“Reforms, from fiscal responsibility to improved social safety nets and enhanced climate resilience, are crucial for Malaysia’s sustainable growth, and to the welfare of the rakyat,” he said.

Commenting on the Sasana Symposium, he said it is more than just keynotes and in-depth, technical discussions.

“The symposium is also about demonstrating how reforms and policy are more than just abstract concepts and ideas, about how reforms can make a positive impact in the lives of Malaysians,” Abdul Rasheed said.

Giving an example, he said that iTEKAD, a social finance programme launched by BNM at the height of the pandemic, has been making inroads.

“We’re happy to share today that over 6,000 small and micro businesses have benefitted from iTEKAD, with them seeing almost a 90 per cent increase in monthly sales and creating job opportunities in their communities,” he said.

iTEKAD is an umbrella programme established by the central bank with the aim of assisting low-income microentrepreneurs to strengthen their financial management and business acumen towards generating sustainable income.

Each iTEKAD programme combines the provision of business assets funded by social finance instruments (e.g. donations, social impact investment, zakat and cash waqf) with microfinance, supplemented with structured financial and business training.