“Budget 2018” is a microsite built by Malaysiakini to explain the latest Malaysian federal budget to the Malaysian public, in conjunction with the announcement of the federal budget for 2018 by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. It was a live site, meaning that we launched it after Najib began his speech on 27 October 2017 at 3.35pm. We updated it continuously with new information throughout his 2.5-hour-long speech and up until the next morning.
The site serves as a comprehensive collection of all elements of our 2018 federal budget coverage. This includes infographics, our live news report page, news articles, videos, and a poll on how our readers felt about the new budget. The goals were to present federal budget data in a comprehensible and accessible way to our readers; to put the 2018 data in context with data from previous years; and to present breaking news in a different way.
Some background: The annual Malaysian federal budget speech is normally more than 50 pages long. Reporting is often centred on the speech, where salient points about the budget are presented to the public. However, the speech alone lacks context. Based on the speech itself, the public does not know if the country is doing better or worse financially, or whether there has been a shift in policy over the years. By providing historical information and tabulating trends, our data analysis helps to provide value by allowing the Malaysian public to better understand the significance of the new federal budget.
What makes this project innovative?
This project was a notable collaborative effort between our journalists, graphics team and technology team. It required a specific chain of command under significant time pressure, as we published and translated infographics in tandem with the content of the budget speech.
To make the infographics page more user-friendly, we subsequently added a drop-down menu for the “Analysis” tab on the desktop version of the microsite, which divides the infographics by sub-topics, so people can immediately access the information they want without having to scroll through the entire page. The data visualisations are also particularly useful because the charts and data can be reused and built upon for future years.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
Source and methodology
There are essentially three components of data in our charts and infographics, which are derived from three different budgetary sources. The first component is policy-related items that are of interest to readers such as the quantum of cash handouts, income tax rates, bonus for civil servants etc. This is mostly derived from the annual budget speeches of the prime minister.
The second component is data that can help give readers the big picture on the national budget - whether we are able to spend more or less. This information is derived from the annual Economic Report issued by the Malaysian Finance Ministry, and cross-checked with the Central Bank of Malaysia (Bank Negara) Annual Report.
The third component looks at how funds have been allocated, particularly in areas of public interest such as education. This is derived from the Federal Expenditure Estimates issued by the Finance Ministry. These voluminous public documents required much time to study, and for us to extract the relevant information. The benefit is that it is a one-off exercise which can be built upon every year.