SINGAPORE -- His face disguised by a black protective mask, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin posed for the cameras in early November, holding up a thick red budget document. Inside, its pages bulged with promises for $78 billion of spending over the next year -- the most expensive budget in Malaysian history. Some of it targeted a worsening COVID-19 pandemic via higher health care investment. Other measures tried to kick-start a stuttering economy with cash handouts and infrastructure schemes.
Altogether, the budget pushed spending higher even than in 2020, when Malaysia launched four successive emergency packages to soften the impact of COVID-19.