Malaysia says oil-backed trust fund to pay for Covid-19 vaccines

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) – Malaysia’s vaccine procurement plan will be bankrolled entirely by a national trust fund that was built primarily on contributions from state energy firm Petronas, the finance minister said on Monday (April 26).

Last week, the government enacted an emergency law to allow it to tap the fund, which was set up to support infrastructure and other development and provide federal loans to Malaysia’s states.

The government will use RM5 billion (S$1.6 billion) out of the RM19.5 billion in the fund to buy enough vaccines to cover 120 per cent of its population and speed up the inoculation programme, said Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz.

“Vaccination is key to economic recovery and the objective of the formation of (the fund) was to protect the future generation, and what better measure to protect the people by ensuring herd immunisation through vaccination,” Mr Tengku Zafrul said in a presentation to the media.

Petronas contributed RM10.4 billion to the fund as at the end of December last year, while the remaining RM9.1 billion was from cumulative investment returns, according to ministry data.

Petronas already provides annual dividends to the government, having declared an RM18 billion payout for this year.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in March nearly doubled Malaysia’s Covid-19 immunisation budget to RM5 billion, which he expects will help achieve the government’s target of inoculating 80 per cent of Malaysia’s 32 million population by December.

But the opposition and the public have criticised the government for what they view is a slow roll-out of the vaccination plan, which was launched in February.

A total of 800,996 people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as at Sunday.

Malaysia has the third-highest number of infections in the region behind Indonesia and the Philippines, recording as at Sunday nearly 393,000 coronavirus cases and 1,436 deaths.

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