SINGAPORE – After nearly two years under Covid-19 movement restrictions that have stifled the economy and shuttered thousands of small businesses, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob's government is betting that the largest budget in the country's history will ease unemployment and spur a robust post-pandemic recovery.

The ambitious 332.1 billion ringgit (US$80.2 billion) spending plan is Ismail’s first since taking the reins as the nation’s ninth prime minister in August. The 2022 budget includes increased developmental spending, support for businesses, subsidies and cash aid, and a dedicated fund for combating Covid-19 and boosting public health care capacity.

Having signed an unprecedented political ceasefire with the opposition shortly after taking power, Ismail’s budget will likely win approval when Parliament votes on the plan in mid-November, analysts say. Ismail’s predecessor, Muhyiddin Yassin, only narrowly passed the 2021 budget amid speculation at the time that his government would fall.