Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Budget Highlights

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Kota Kinabalu:

1. Setting up of three new ministries – the Ministry of Health and People’s Wellbeing; the Ministry of Education and Innovation; and the Ministry of Law and Native Affairs.

2. Abolishment of Communal Titles (with certain clauses to protect land ownership for the Natives).

3. Review of lopsided deals

4. Formulating a land-use plan that will address the dual needs of development and conservation.

5. RM5 billion Development Budget for Sabah from the Federal Government.

6. Downstream procession of Sabah’s resources like timber, oil and gas and crude palm oil to create value-added products and more job opportunities.

7. To improve the development of productive sectors, including attracting investments to drive economic growth and generate State revenue:

  • To address socio-economic imbalances and improve people’s living standards through inclusive approaches;
  • To accelerate the development of quality human capital through increased knowledge, skills, productivity and innovation;
  • To develop enablers such as basic infrastructures, utilities and public amenities, including ICT in order to support economic expansion; and
  • To strengthen the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of Sabah Government’s management and delivery system.

8. Government will commence the collection of sales tax on fishery commodities brought out from Sabah at a rate of 5 per cent beginning next year. Revenue collection from this sales tax is estimated at RM20 million.

9. After restructuring of Sabah Water Department’s administration, RM66.8 million of revenue managed to be collected from August until the end of October 2018. With such administrative and management improvements, the Sabah Water Department is expected to collect revenue of RM330.2 million in year 2019.

10. Setting up of Kalabakan District Office.

11. To attract investment and promote further growth in the industrial sector, the Government will also introduce a number of new incentives. Among them is reduction on land premium

12. Allocated RM636.69 million to the State Water Department for the purpose of its operation and implementation of development programmes.

13. Increased allocation for Scholarships, Bursaries and Financial Assistance for students. This allocation, now placed under the Ministry of Education and Innovation, has increased by RM15 million to RM52 million in year 2019 compared to RM37 million in year 2018. Yayasan Sabah started a RM10 million one-off assistance for students in 2018 and will continue in 2019 with the amount to be increased depending on the foundation’s performance.

14. Development of religious and non-Muslim institutions as well as missionary and private schools are allocated RM35 million. The Government has also increased the allocation for missionary and private schools from RM12 million in year 2018 to RM15 million in year 2019.

15.Development of hill paddy sector to improve the livelihoods of the rural folk in Ranau, Tambunan, Keningau, Kota Belud, Sipitang, Pitas and Kota Marudu. Hill paddy fetches good prices in the local market and is also fast becoming a desired food for the health conscious. A RM5 million special allocation to assist them.

16. The Sabah Government also allocates RM24.45 million for special fund and loan for entrepreneurial development including for the youths. The Government is confident that this provision will also help to encourage the activities of Small and Medium Enterprises in Sabah

17. RM9.56 million is provided for this purpose under the Public Service Department (JPAN) for local and international training courses. To increase the ability, professionalism and efficiency of the civil servant, the Government encourages continuous lifelong learning culture, which includes acquiring new skills in keeping up with dynamic development of the world.

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A budget for hope in Malaysia?

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The government has outlined its plans to collect and spend money next year. Equally important are institutional reforms and stakeholder engagement.

IN evaluating how other people are going to spend your money on your behalf, there are inevitably a number of different perspectives you can take.

The contents of a national budget can have a huge impact on your life, whether you are a student or a retiree, an employer or an emplo­yee, and regardless of your cultural background, age, and current level of income, assets and spending.

But despite the approval or disapproval citizens may have about certain proposals in a national budget that affect them personally, I believe the majority of Malaysians want all their compatriots to live free of poverty and hardship, and ultimately to thrive in a land of bountiful opportunity.


Naturally, the immediate reactions to the first Pakatan Harapan budget pertained to those with a personal impact. Colleagues and friends celebrated or decried the departure levy, fuel subsidies and soda tax.

In terms of the impact on society as a whole, my colleagues at the Institute for Democracy and Econo­mic Affairs (Ideas) have said this: “[The budget] promises transparency and better value for taxpayers’ money, provides adequate non-tax measures to fill revenue shortfalls, and proposes a range of measures for economic growth focusing on SMEs and boosting trade, agricultural and industrial activities.

“The budget represents a delivery of many manifesto promises, with some creative compromises such as on tolls and PTPTN. This … makes the budget good news for average households and businesses alike.

“This has not come cheaply however – operational spending has gone up by over 10%. This year, the government is being helped by a RM30bil special dividend from Petronas but that cannot be counted on every year, so there will need to be further reductions in spending in the near future.”

We welcome the support for SMEs, which we have always believed should be the main driver of the economy, and it’s good that social enterprises are getting due recognition through income tax deductions for contributions to them.

Similarly we look forward to the conclusions of the task force to review GLCs under Ministry of Finance Inc to ensure they do not compete with the private sector. However, bodies under other ministries should be reviewed too, and it is important to define “strategic” sectors clearly.

Support for the B40 (the bottom 40% of the population with the lowest household incomes) is also notable with targeted payments and subsidies to help smoothen consumption levels.

In terms of affordable housing, the exemption of stamp duty for first-time home buyers together with low-interest financing for low-cost housing purchases will hopefully go some way to opening up home-owning opportunities.

Still, while addressing cost of living was one of the main thrusts of the manifesto, it is hoped that the government’s objectives on promoting renewables and developing the energy market are not derailed by fuel subsidies.

For me, one highlight was the com­­mitments to institutional reforms. Although governments all over the world have to embed some populism and compromise in a national budget, such spending can at least be optimised by ensuring cleaner and leaner institutions that encourage competition and transparency where possible.

That is why we applaud the utilisation of more open tenders instead of direct negotiations, and of course we hope the government succeeds in recovering some of the losses through revenue leakages such as through illicit trade – in addition, of course, to claiming back debts that should never have been issued in the first place.

In the longer term, the manifesto promised to further engage stakeholders in the policymaking process by drafting Green Papers to promote discussion, and White Papers before Acts of Parliament are introduced. Such a process would particularly benefit budget-related legislation.

However, while I was happy that the Malay term used was the Sanskrit-derived belanjawan rather than bajet, I was disappointed that the Finance Minister continued the practice of carrying the document in a leather briefcase – albeit a different brand from the one the previous finance minister used.

I have nothing against these brands, but I thought that the minister could have located Tun Tan Siew Sin’s original budget box and used that instead.

Symbolically, it might have echoed the early optimism of a new country, compared to perpetuating an affinity for foreign luxury bags.

But if you’re going to use a new bag, then why not choose one of the many artisanal options crafted by local communities spurred by social entrepreneurs? That would have been a better symbol of bountiful opportunity being carried by Malay­sians, for Malaysians.

By Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin
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What do I gain from 2019 Budget?

Thursday, November 8th, 2018
Car and motorcycle owners of certain engine capacities are eligible for fuel subsidies of 30 sen per litre, capped monthly at 100 litres for a car and 40 litres for a motorcycle. FILE PIC

THE most common question after the tabling of the 2019 Budget was: “What’s in it for me?”

First, we have to classify ourselves into one of the three income categories: B40, M40 or T20.

The Statistics Department said a B40 household earns up to RM3,000 a month, M40 up to RM6,275 a month and T20 at least RM13,148 a month.

We were told this budget would entail sacrifices. Sure enough, the T20 group and most of the M40 group have nothing much to shout about.

B40 is highlighted consistently. For instance, B40 is the target group for three focuses and 12 strategies.

RM5 billion is allocated for the Life Assistance Programme (Bantuan Sara Hidup).

B40 households registered in the e-Kasih programme get their electricity bill subsidised up to RM40 per month compared with the previous RM20.

Car and motorcycle owners of certain engine capacities are eligible for fuel subsidies of 30 sen per litre, capped monthly at 100 litres for a car and 40 litres for a motorcycle.

The infirmed are covered by medical insurance. Housewives get to receive Employees Provident Fund (iSURI). Consumers get to check prices of goods and services using the Price Catcher app and pensioners who receive up to RM1,000 a month get a one-off reward.

Contract workers get medical benefits extended to their parents. Senior citizens aged 50 and above get health screening. There are free mammogram screenings, HPV vaccination and pap smear tests for women.

Structural unemployment is said to be about 3.4 per cent, which isn’t alarming, but it needs a long-term solution to contain it.

Providing training and skills to youth will ensure that the mismatch of jobs and skills is reduced.

Employers are given incentives to hire those between 61 and 65 years old.

Ex-convicts can get jobs and the unemployed in an insurance scheme can claim losses on income.

A 2016 study on households earnning RM2,000 and below has a shocking revelation.

Some 95 per cent of their income is spent on goods and services, and only RM76 is left for contingencies.

Just imagine how one could survive in this dire situation.

The 2019 Budget addresses this by tackling public transportation costs and reviewing affordable housing prices.

The requirements to obtain housing loan are being relaxed, travelling passes are introduced, and toll charges for motorcycles are eliminated.


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RM314.5b to overcome challenges

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Kuala Lumpur: In the face of various challenges, particularly the burden of national debt and an uncertain world economy, the Pakatan Harapan Government on Friday unveiled its people-friendly maiden Budget 2019 which is believed can overcome the economic challenges and chart a brighter future.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, saying the PH Government will not neglect the people’s trust placed in it through the 14th General Election, presented a budget totalling RM314.5 billion with the determination to help the people, ensure national development and, most importantly, to restore the fiscal position of the country within three years.

“Indeed, we are truly fortunate to have been given the trust, support and opportunity for the Pakatan Harapan Government to reshape the administration of this nation in a more developed, competitive and transparent manner,” he said.

The budget Lim tabled in the Dewan Rakyat carried the theme “A Resurgent Malaysia, A Dynamic Economy, A Prosperous Society”.

The presentation of Budget 2019 created history as it is the first budget of the PH Government after it took over the administration of the country following its victory in GE14 on May 9, ending the 61-year dominance of the Barisan Nasional.

Budget 2019 is the first by the PH Government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the Prime Minister who came out of retirement to helm the administration at the age of 93 after having retired in 2003 following a 22-year rule as the fourth Prime Minister of the country.

The PH Government has given importance in Budget 2019 to assistance for the low-income people with the Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) aid of between RM500 and RM1,000 for households with a monthly income of RM4,000 and below.

An improvement to the BSH aid is the RM120 payment for every child aged 18 and below, limited to four children, in a household with a monthly income of RM2,000 and below.

The budget also brought cheer to civil servants and government pensioners when the PH Government, emulating the tradition of providing special payments, offered RM500 to civil servants on Grade 54 and below and RM250 to the pensioners.

This offer to the estimated 1.6 million civil servants and pensioners, involving an allocation of RM1 billion, will be paid by the end of this year

The budget is also packed with proposals for subsidies, among them a monthly RM40 electricity bill subsidy benefiting 185,000 accounts; a 30 sen per litre RON95 petrol subsidy for 100 litres for cars below 1500cc or for 40 litres for motorcycles of 125cc, benefiting four million car owners and 2.6 million motorcycle owners.

A good news for motorcyclists is the abolition of toll for motorcycles on both the Penang Bridge and the Linkedua in Johor from next year.

To increase the utilisation of public transport, the Government will allocate RM240 million to introduce a RM100 unlimited public transport pass, to kick off initially on the RapidKL rail and bus network on Jan 1, 2019

The budget does not propose increase in taxes or the imposition of new taxes which can burden the people, and the abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and re-introduction of the Sales and Service Tax (SST) on Sept 1 has seen a reduction in the prices of many goods.

Lim said the taxes have been imposed in other sectors, among them for gaming which has not seen any rise since 2005, with a rise in fees and levies on casino licence and gaming machines.

The Finance Minister said the PH government is determined to nurse the Malaysian economy back to the original state when it was known as an Asian Tiger.

He said Budget 2019 will meet its objective with three focus areas – implementing institutional reforms; ensuring the socio-economic wellbeing of Malaysians and fostering an entrepreneurial economy – and 12 key strategies

Lim said Malaysia, unlike under the previous administration, is now fortunate to have the leadership of Dr Mahathir who has become an inspiration for the world and can overcome all challenges.

He said the world’s confidence in Dr Mahathir was reflected in the Japan government willingness to offer to guarantee about RM7.4 billion (200 billion Japanese Yen) for the issuance of 10-year bonds.

At the conclusion of his almost 140-minute speech, Lim expressed appreciation for the people of Malaysia of all races for having supported the PH leadership and administration by toppling the kleptocratic BN government.

“The choice made by the people has been proven correct yet again yesterday after two former Goldman Sachs bankers, Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, were arrested and charged by the US Justice Department.

“These are the unscrupulous bankers who engineered the US$6.5 billion or RM26 billion of 1MDB bonds, by colluding with thieves in Malaysia to steal from the people of Malaysia,” he said.

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Budget 2019 Highlights

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is tabling Budget 2019 in Parliament, the first federal budget by the Pakatan Harapan government.

The tabling of the Supply Bill (Budget) 2019 will commence before Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, and will be debated by the Members of Parliament at the policy level from Nov 12 to 15.

It will be followed by the minister’s answer sessions before the debate at the committee level from Nov 26 to Dec 6.

The Budget 2019 carries the theme “Credible Malaysia, Dynamic Economy, Prosperous Rakyat”.

It focuses on institutional reforms, the people’s wellbeing and promotion of entrepreneurial culture to recapture Malaysia’s “Economic Tiger” status.

These are the highlights of Budget 2019, and we will continue to update this story:

* In his opening remarks on Friday (Nov 2), Lim said the government’s real debt and liability as at June 2018 was at RM1,065bil, RM350bil higher than the amount by the previous Government.

*Government expects GDP to grow 4.9% in 2019 despite uncertainties in the global economy.

*Government noticed the previous administration secretly paid RM7bil of 1MDB debt as at April 30, 2018.

*Government may need to pay as much as RM43.9bil to settle 1MDB debts.

*Government to table Fiscal Responsibility Act by 2021 to avoid uncontrolled spending.

* As at Oct 15, international reserves amounted to US$102.8bil or RM426bil, sufficient to cover 7.4 months of retained imports. The inflation rate remained low at 1.2% for the period January to September 2018.

*Fiscal deficit in 2018 to reach 3.7%. The increase was due to expenditure commitment by the previous administration.

* Pakatan administration committed to implement fiscal consolidation steps to reduce deficit to  3.4% of the GDP in 2019, 3% by 2020 and 2.8% in 2021.

* Government to establish Debt Management Office (Pejabat Pengurusan Hutang)  to review and check government debts and liability.

* For 2019, Federal Government’s official debt as a percentage of GDP to reach 51.8% while total liability expected to lower to 73.5%.

* Government will continue the LRT3 project with a savings of 47% from the initial estimated cost of RM31.6bil to RM16.6bil.

* Government will be able to save RM15bil based on the announcement.

* The MRT2 will also continue with a savings of 22.4% from the initial estimated cost of RM39.3bil to RM30.5bil.

* The RM5.2bil Klang Valley Double Tracking Project will be re-tendered through open tender and is expected to provide substantial cost savings.

* Under the GST, 545 goods were zero-rated while under SST, almost 10 times more the items were exempted from SST.

* Based on preliminary studies by the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, 70% or 291 of the 417 products and services that have been inspected saw prices drop in September 2018.

* Government to create a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) for its airports. Through this initiative, the government is expected to rake in RM4bil, disposing 30% of the REIT equity.

* Government will introduce a credit system for sales tax deduction from January next year. The credit system will avoid double taxation and lower business costs.

* Effective Jan 1, 2019, the government will grant SST exemptions to specific services provided by registered businesses to other registered businesses.

* The finance minister says the government will also introduce a tax cut credit system for small manufacturers who purchase source materials from importers and not registered factories.

* The Inland Revenue Board (LHDN)  to look into and investigate “extraordinary wealth” such as owning luxurious goods including jewellery, watches, handbags, luxury cars or real estates.

* Starting Jan 1, 2019, the government will tax imported services to ensure that local service providers such as architects, graphic designers, software developers can compete more competitively.

* Online services imported by users will also be required to register with the Customs Department from Jan 1, 2020. This includes software, music, videos, or any digital advertising.

* The Government will launch a Special Voluntary Disclosure Programme, giving taxpayers an opportunity to voluntarily declare any unreported income.

* After successfully re-introducing SST, Customs Department will beef up enforcement on smuggling of cigarettes.

* Government to impose levy for all passengers travelling overseas via air routes starting June 1, 2019, RM20 for passengers travelling to Asean countries and RM40 for other countries.

* For companies, non-citizens and non-PR holders, real property gains tax will be increased from 5% to 10%. For citizens and those with PR, real property gains tax will be increased form 0% to 5%.

* Government hopes to get back at least RM1bil from efforts to combat smuggling and fraudulent activities that were previously unrecoverable.

* Stamp duties for property transfers worth more than RM1mil will be raised by 1 percentage point from 3%  to 4%.

* Casino licence will be increased from RM120mil to RM150mil annually; casino duty will be raised to 35% on gross income.

* In 2019, the Federal Government is expected to collect revenue of RM261.8bil, comprising a special dividend of RM30bil from Petronas.

* Government will subsidise RON 95 petrol for those with cars with the engine capacity of 1,500cc, and under, and those with motorcycles with engine capacity of 125cc and under.

* Subsidy will be RM0.30 per litre and capped at 100 litres a month for cars and 40 litres a month for motorcycles.

* Price of RON 95 will be floated after subsidy is put in place.

* Government will allocate RM10mil to work with NGOs and social enterprises to help underprivileged communities.

* Minimum wage to increase to RM1,100 nationwide starting Jan 1, 2019.

* Government will continue and improve the financial aid (Bantuan Sara Hidup)  to the B40 group by providing more targeted assistance.

* Households with monthly income of RM2,000 and below will receive RM1,000.

- Monthly income from RM2,001 to RM3,000 and below will receive a total of RM750; and

- Monthly income from RM3,001 to RM4,000 will receive a total of RM500.

* Government will introduce an additional aid (BSH) of RM120 for each child aged 18 years and below, to be limited to four persons, except disabled persons (OKU) with no age limit.

* It is estimated that 4.1 million households will continue to receive financial assistance from the government with a total allocation of RM5bil.

* Government to spend RM1.5bil on affordable housing. To help those earning no more than RM2,300, a fund will be set up byb Bank Negara for homes up to RM150,000 at interest rate of 3.5% through selected banks.

* Monthly electricity subsidy will be given  to the poor and hardcore poor registered with the e-Kasih program, the subsidy rate is increased to RM40 per month and will benefit 185,000 accounts. An allocation of RM80 million will be provided.

* B40 National Health Protection Fund – Protection for four major critical illnesses up to RM8,000 and maximum 14 days of replacement income during hospital treatment at RM50 /day or equivalent to RM700 /year.

* From Jan 1, 2019, no tolls for motorcycles on the First and Second Penang Bridge and the Second Link in Johor.

* RM5.9bil allocation earmarked for Defence Ministry and Home Ministry.

* Labour laws to be reviewed to improve labour market, ensure workers’ well-being and prevent discrimination by employers.

* Public transportation users can buy RM100 monthly passes for unlimited trips on RapidKL rail or bus services starting from January 2019.  There is also a RM50 monthly pass for those who only use RapidKL busses. This scheme will be expanded to other bus companies in stages.

* To encourage the hiring of those above the age of 60 who want to work, the government proposes that their mandatory EPF contributions be reduced from 6% to 4%.

- Lim says this group will also not have their income deducted for EPF contributions to increase the money available to them.

- There will also be tax incentives for companies that hire senior citizens, with a salary limit of RM4,000 a month.

* Government has allocated RM10mil annually to extend medical benefits to parents of contractual civil servants.

* Contractual civil servants whose children have infectious diseases will be eligible for quarantine leave.

* Government proposes a special payment of RM500 to all civil servants grade 54 and below.

- A special payment of RM250 will also be given to government pensioners.

- The amount of this special fee involves a cost of RM1bil.

- RM500 one-off payment for eligible pensioners receiving less than RM1,000 monthly.

* Soda Tax

- Government to introduce excise duty  at 40 cents per litre on two categories of sugary drinks which are manufactured in the form of ready-to-drink packaging, starting April 1, 2019.

- Beverages containing sugar or other sweeteners containing sugar exceeding 5 grams per 100ml; and

- Fruit juices and vegetables containing sugar more than 12 grams per 100ml.

* The Securities Commission has approved the framework for the equity-generation fund platform and P2P lending. To date, a total of RM170mil has been raised by 450 companies from various sectors through these platforms.

* The government will freeze toll charges on all highways in the city in 2019 with an estimated budget RM700mil.

* To promote digital economy, the government will implement the National Fiber Optic and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) with an allocation of RM1bil.

- The plan aims to develop the nation’s broadband infrastructure. In addition, the target broadband service speed is 30mbps in rural areas and remote areas within five years to enable Malaysia to achieve world-class infrastructure at an affordable price.

* The Government will also enforce the  Mandatory Standard Access Pricing (MSAP) to reduce fixed line broadband prices by at least 25% by the end of 2018.

* Loan deductions for students from B40 households who get first class results.

* Government has earmarked 380 acres of land in Pulau Indah as a Free Trade Zone to support and catalyse shipping and logistics activities in Port Klang.

* Khazanah Nasional will develop 80 acres of land in Subang as a world class aerospace hub. Khazanah will work MARA in producing high-skilled manpower to meet industry needs.

* To ensure the sustainability of the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), several initiatives have been announced, including payment through deductions of between 2% and 15% from the borrower’s salary, based on their monthly income rate. This system is only applicable to borrowers earning more than RM1,000 a month.

- A tax break will be given to companies that assist its staff members to settle their loans by the year ending 2019.

* Individual income tax breaks for the National Education Saving Scheme is increased from RM6,000 to RM8,000

* Government will help people who lost their jobs by fully implementing the Employment Insurance System (SIP) beginning January next year.

* Perkeso will implement SIP, including employment placement programmes, skills upgrades and compensation for job losses.

* Allocate about RM29bil for health services, which is a 7.8% increase compared with the previous year (RM27bil).

* Through a joint venture with private insurance company, the government will introduce the B40 National Health Protection Fund.

* Great Eastern Life Insurance contributed RM2bil as start-up to the fund to be managed by Bank Negara Malaysia.

* Tax relief for EPF contribution, life insurance or takaful premium will be separated.

* Income tax relief up to RM4,000 on EPF contribution or approved pension fund; and tax relief of up to RM3,000 on takaful or life insurance premium payments.

* For civil servants under the pension scheme, tax relief is up to RM7,000.* Government plans to exempt 34 stamp duties on all Perlindungan Tenang insurance products for two years beginnng January next year.

* RM100mil for Health Protection Scheme (Peka), with health screening pilot project for 800,000 people from B40 group ages 50 and above.

* RM20mil to continue free mamogram for breast screening, HPV vaccination and pap smear in government hospitals and clinics.

* RM50mil for rare diseases treatment, Hepatitis C, programme to overcome stunting among children, screening and haemodialisis treatment and enhanced primary healthcare.

* Expand public-private partnership where government provides health infrastructure facilities such as with the Federal Territory Katarak Islamic Council Centre in Selayang.

* Government to use Cuplump Modified Bitumen (CMB) technology, especially in road works at harbours and industrial zones in stages. For this purpose RM100mil has been allocated.

* Allocation of RM85mil to improve and repair infrastructure at community halls and villages.

* Government allocates RM926 mil for building and improving highways, roads and bridges.

* Tax exemption facility to be given to duty-free shops at Swettenham Port in Penang to further promote cruise tourism.

* Duty-free islands

- Government is committed to make Pulau Pangkor a duty-free island.

- Langkawi’s status as a duty-free island will be further expanded.

- Federal Government to get a 50% share of the tourism tax proceeds received in these states.

* A total of RM2bil will be provided under the Green Technology Financing Scheme to encourage investment in the green technology industry.

* Government allocates RM286.8mil for the operating expenses of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), an increase of 18.5% from allocated last year.

* Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) agrees to reduce house prices as much as 10% for houses which are not subject to price control for new projects.

* RM1.5bil to build and complete affordable homes under the People’s Housing Programme, Civil Servants Housing Project, PR1MA, and Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Bhd.

* RM1bil fund to be set up by the Central Bank of Malaysia (BNM) for those earning under RM2,300 per month to buy affordable houses priced at RM150,000 and below.

* The fund will be made available for two years or until the fund is depleted through AmBank, CIMB Bank, Maybank, RHB Bank and  BSN at an interest as low as 3.5%.

* RM25mil will be allocated to Cagamas Berhad to prepare a mortgage guarantee (jaminan pajak gadai) to ensure that first time house buyers with a household income of up to RM5,000 will receive a higher financing, including for their deposit. This is expected to lower the cost between 7% and 11% for buyers, apart from the discounts given by developers.

* Stamp duty exception for the first RM300,000 on the property transfer letter (surat cara pindah milik) and loan agreement for first time house buyers purchasing a house priced at a maximum of RM500,000 for two years until December 2020.

* Financing under the Public Sector Home Financing Board (LPPSA) will be extended from 30 years to 35 years for first-time financing and 25 years to 30 years for second financing (pembiayaan kedua).

* RM400 mil will be allocated to improve the living quarters of civil servants such as police and military personnel and teachers.

* Government is suggesting on an exemption of stamp duty on property transfer letter for first house purchase for houses priced between RM300,001 and RM1mil for the period of six months starting from Jan 1, 2019.

- This will be part of the National House Ownership Campaign, of which developers have agreed to give a 10% discount to houses under existing projects.

* Property crowdfunding platform will be allowed, which will be headed by the private sector. Overseen by the Securities Commission, it will allow house buyers to use peer-to-peer lending to finance their purchase.

* Stamp duty rate for property transfers for properties priced at more than RM1mil increased from 3% to 4%.

For full coverage of Budget 2019, go to

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Budget 2019: Guan Eng announces largest-ever allocation of RM314.5bil.

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

PETALING JAYA: Budget 2019 will have a total allocation of RM314.5bil, the largest compared with the last two federal budgets.

This is an RM24.1bil increase from last year’s budget, which saw an allocation of RM290.4bil, while Budget 2017 had an allocation of RM260bil.

This year’s budget carries the theme “Credible Malaysia, Dynamic Economy, Prosperous Rakyat”.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, in tabling Budget 2019 in Parliament on Friday, said RM259.8bil would be allocated as operating expenditure while RM54.7bil will be allocated as development expenditure.

Budget 2019 is focused on institutional reforms, the people’s well-being, and the promotion of an entrepreneurial culture to recapture Malaysia’s “Asian Tiger” economic status.

Budget 2018, tabled by then Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, had the theme “Prosper with inclusive economy, balancing duniawi (worldly) and ukhrawi (hereafter) excellence to better the lives of the rakyat towards #TN50 aspirations”.

Budget 2017 was themed “Ensuring Unity and Economic Growth, Inclusive Prudent Spending, Wellbeing of the Rakyat”.

Budget 2019 was based on the principles of national integration and stability, and was the first ever tabled by the new Pakatan Harapan government.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad previously said that this budget would put Malaysia in a stronger position and ensure the prosperity of the people and future generations.

By Mei Mei Chu

Budget 2019: PTPTN initiatives announced

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

PETALING JAYA: To ensure the sustainability of the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), the government has announced several initiatives in Budget 2019.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said these include the option of payment through deductions of between 2% and 15% from the borrower’s salary, based on their monthly income rate.

This system will only be applicable to borrowers earning more than RM1,000 a month.

Additionally, a tax break will be given to companies that assist its staff to settle their loans by the year ending 2019, Lim said.

Individual income tax breaks for the National Education Saving Scheme will also be increased from RM6,000 to RM8,000.

Finally, the government has also announced that all remaining loans for borrowers aged above 60 and earning less than RM4,000 a month have been waived, benefiting 350 borrowers with a cost of RM4.2 million.

By Martin Vengadesan

Budget 2019: Dr Maszlee on cloud nine over RM60.2bil allocation.

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik believes that Budget 2019 shows the government’s commitment to building up the nation via education.

“We feel this is a good beginning for a brighter future.

“The budget shows the commitment of Pakatan Harapan for education in all categories,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Friday (Nov 2), when asked to comment about the allocation of funding for schools.

Dr Maszlee also said the focus of the ministry is to increase the quality of education and to build up educators and students who will “together build up the nation”.

In tabling Budget 2019, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government had allocated among other things, RM2.9bil aid for poor students for food, cash and textbooks, RM652mil to upgrade schools, RM100mil to rebuild poor schools, and RM206mil to develop and provide training programmes at community colleges and polytechnics.


2019 Budget: Decisive and pragmatic

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

THE budget to be tabled today will be by a government of 24 weeks in office. While there are personalities who have had federal ministerial posts before, a significant number of cabinet members today are first time members of parliament and ministers.

In the run-up to the 14th General Election, saving the dreadful state of federal finance has been the underlying message in shoring up support for Pakatan Harapan. However, abolishing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has not exactly helped the country’s financial standing.

The signals we have received so far are saying that the budget is unlikely to be a generous undertaking. But in the event that it is, it would be a budget that closely resembles the previous years’ against the backdrop of the ominous narrative, hence, leaving an overall positive impression on the present administration.

The euphoria, however, will be short-lived as questions surrounding future driver of growth remain unanswered. But if the government wants to solidify trust of the people, honouring its election promises is paramount

This, however, poses tensions because the financial realities must dictate how the budget is really formulated.

Under normal circumstances, we must expect the government to suck it up and bite the bullet for a prosperous future. If the operating expenditure (OE) were to remain largely the same at the expense of development expenditure (DE) cuts, it will appear as if the government is not going to invest more for the future. But the bigger question is, how will investors react if DE takes a larger percentage cut than OE?

If Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) were to be phased out starting from this budget, this author expects similar treatment to be accorded to other related cash handouts. Unless we form a basis for robust evaluation and monitoring, many if not all of them would have to go alongside BSH.

Despite the best of our intentions, they could be dashed by external events that are likely to unfold within the next 12 months.

We have heard how the US-China trade war, financial turbulence in emerging markets, possible further US interest rate hikes, and geopolitical jitters, to name a few, could rein a buoyant budget. As an open economy, we should put these probabilities in the right context so that it will improve the government’s manoeuvrability in providing a timely response.

The 60-day countdown towards entry into force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) has just started. Assuming that Vietnam will join the party in the coming weeks, seven CPTPP countries will get preferential access to trade, thus circumventing the negative effects of trade war. Malaysia will be further sidelined from greater regional trade and investment, leaving us on the outside looking in. That said, it is imperative for the budget to provide a clearer picture of the government’s intentions whether to remain in, or shun, the agreement.

As far as the 2019 Budget is concerned, the government’s tacit interest in ratifying CPTPP could be expressed by reviewing the Financial Procedures Act 1957 and its subsidiaries, reviving the planned enactment of the State-Owned Enterprise Governance Act and reviewing the three key labour laws as stipulated in the 11th Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Review.

After all, the best way to address the alleged high level of debt and liabilities is by reviewing government procurement rules and procedures.

The budget should also give us an indication of how the government plans to honour the remaining 100-day promises as well as the Buku Harapan. Granted, there will be promises that can never be realised in this budget or even term. In this respect, the government should take the opportunity to realign its election promises in this budget, thus signalling its commitment of staying in power or risk having a much heavier public audit.

Not all challenges are external in nature. The government should stay clear from giving the signals that we are going to suffer politically and financially like how we did in the past.

We need a comfortable fiscal space. It would take two to three years to normalise post-GST removal, but vulnerability to shocks will persist for as long the consumption tax were to remain as is. We could argue the need for greater revenue generation, but they should be complemented with a sturdy direct and indirect taxes first. Introducing new taxes at this juncture would be premature, let alone providing the government with the necessary buffer from a sudden loss in revenue.

Carbon tax is highly welcome, but it will erase people’s purchasing power, neglecting the very tenet of Buku Harapan.


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2019 Budget: Mind the income gap

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
Malaysians are very concerned about the growing income disparity and are hoping that the 2019 Budget, Pakatan Harapan’s first ever, will help mind it. (NSTP Archive)

Malaysians are very concerned about the growing income disparity and are hoping that the 2019 Budget, Pakatan Harapan’s first ever, will help mind it.

It was perhaps inevitable in the early years of Malaysia’s economic progress when the fruits of industrial development went directly to a small number of business owners.

Now that we are 61 years ahead in national development, economic growth must come with equity.

Understandably, many Malaysian economists view this economic path to be the most appropriate given the country’s development history and social context.

Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) executive director Professor Dr Zakariah Abdul Rashid is one with such a view.

He told the New Straits Times yesterday that socio-economic development in the context of Malaysia was all about growth with equity.

The government is not without any option. A key path the PH government can take to bridge the income gap is to provide opportunities for education and skills development for the low-income (B40) and middle-income (M40) group.

Education and skills development are great social mobilisers. And great equalisers, too. This is true not only for developed countries in the West, but also for developing countries in the East. What is good for Sweden, it appears, is good for Malaysia. Well, at least in the socio-economic context.

According to Khazanah Research Institute’s (KRI) The State of Households 2018: Different Realities,paid employment and self-employment were the two most important sources of income for the 6.9 million Malaysian households in 2016, the latest statistics available. Economists have long established a positive correlation between earning potential of individuals and education or skill level.

KRI’s 2018 report supports this. According to the report, household heads who had at least a university degree had household incomes 3.6 times more compared with those with no certificate. Sadly for Malaysia, available data show much room for improvement in this area.

A World Economic Forum website, dated Feb 3, 2015, quoting the World Bank, showed only 25 per cent of Malaysia’s labour force had a degree or similar qualification.

The remaining 75 per cent of degree holders were from M40 and T20 groups. For purposes of comparison, 43 per cent of South Korea’s labour force had a degree or equivalent qualification.

Similarly, efforts must also be expended to create more entrepreneurs from the B40 and M40 groups to ensure that the top 20 (T20) are not the only ones who have access to wealth. Business is a great equaliser as well.

With the right guidance and skills training, the B40 and M40 groups may be able to grow their business into small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).

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