Malaysia’s Littoral Combat Ship programme was slated to see its first delivery in April 2019, with the remaining ships being delivered every six months after that. As at December 2020, it was confirmed that while RM6 billion had been paid out, the first ship of the class was only 59.79% complete. It is now March 2021, nearly two years since the original due date, and it would appear no end is in sight for the troubled procurement project.
With the nation battling the pandemic and trying to recover from the economic slowdown, we can expect that the healthcare and social protection systems will be the main focus of this year’s budget. This is understandable, given the direct effects of the virus crisis on livelihoods and health. However, the existing budget is already underfunding the Malaysian Armed Forces’ core obligatory operations, notwithstanding commitments to increase readiness and capabilities and expanded operational demands due to the pandemic.
If these problems are not addressed properly over the long term, the reputation of the Armed Forces as a professional organization will suffer. It may come to a point where future youths and families may altogether advocate against any form of service in the military, which in turn might deprive the Armed Forces a pool of dynamic recruits and cadets.
On the 2nd December last year, the Pakatan Harapan government presented the Defense White Paper (DWP) in Parliament. The first of its kind, it is a publicly available policy document that provides guidance to policy makers on conducting national defense affairs, while also giving the members of the public an opportunity to engage in this previously opaque area of public policy. The current DWP is to last over a period of the next 10 years, starting from 2021.