KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s soaring subsidy bill is forcing the government to take extreme measures as it embarks on an austerity drive that will take its toll politically ahead of an election due in a year.

Despite subsidies, including social assistance such as direct cash transfer to the nation’s poor, expected to breach a record RM80 billion (S$25 billion) – a whopping 160 per cent higher than the budgeted RM31 billion – this year, the rising cost of living is still the main issue amid post-Covid-19 recovery.