RESPONSIVE and responsible. The 2013 Budget to be tabled today by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is likely to put a smile on almost everyone’s face but yet calls for financial prudence.
Government officials described the much awaited Budget as “mildly expansionary but fiscally responsible”, taking into account the challenging global economic environment and the need to continue with fiscal consolidation while enhancing the wellbeing of the people.
The Budget speech, which will be telecast live from Parliament at 4pm, will generally have something for everyone.
Every segment of the society — from small to big businesses, farmers, private sector workers and civil servants — will stand to benefit directly or indirectly from a slew of measures to help raise their incomes.
In fact, it is a continuation of initiatives and policies that the prime minister had introduced since he took office three years ago to improve the quality of life of Malaysians.
Malaysia’s economy is expected to grow between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent next year, according to government officials, against 4.5 to five per cent this year. The growth is being fuelled by strong private investment, a robust construction sector and various Entry Point Projects under the Economic Transformation Programme.
Higher government revenue will help spur more spending on addressing the needs of the people. These include improved public transport, public safety, educational and training facilities, and better business and investment opportunities.
Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa said yesterday there would be good news for the people, including the 1.4 million civil servants.
Something also can be expected for the urban middle-income group (earning between RM5,000 and RM10,000), with some speculating that it would be in the form of further tax relief.
While some may be inclined to label the 2013 Budget as an “election budget” in view of the expected “goodies”, an official pointed out that improving the livelihood of the people has been Najib’s mission since he took office in April 2009.
Apart from these socio-economic measures, the 2013 Budget is also expected to announce efforts to further consolidate Kuala Lumpur as a regional initial public offering (IPO) hub and Malaysia as the global leader in Islamic finance. Some announcements are expected to make Malaysia a more attractive place for IPOs and issuance of bonds and sukuk.
Already, the value of the 100 companies that make up Bursa Malaysia's benchmark index has doubled in the last three years, thanks to the recent listing of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd, IHH Healthcare Bhd and soon-to-be-listed Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd.
Malaysia remains the global leader in the sukuk market, accounting for some 70 per cent of the total global sukuk outstanding as of middle of this year.
On the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), the official said the Budget was unlikely to give a timetable but might indicate some initiatives to rejig the tax structure.
"There is a broad acceptance for GST but much has to be done to explain its benefits to the rakyat as the opposition has been stoking fear against this consumption tax."
On the issue of prudent financial management, the official said the government remained committed towards further lowering the fiscal deficit to around four per cent of gross domestic product next year, from 4.5 per cent this year, and to three per cent by 2015.
This would be achieved through better financial management.