KUALA LUMPUR: The government has undoubtedly unveiled an inclusive budget for next year as evidenced by an allocation of RM322.5 billion — the biggest in Malaysia’s history — to help vulnerable groups, as well as consolidate the economy amid tough and excruciating conditions.It will provide micro-credit facilities, easier financing for entrepreneurs, generate jobs and give a lift to adversely-affected sectors such as tourism while battling economic uncertainties brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.A notable proposal in the budget in the new norm is that the Perikatan Nasional government will provide incentives for companies producing Covid-19 vaccines to invest in Malaysia, as well as other pharmaceuticals.Despite being his maiden budget, credit should go to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz for prioritising the welfare of the people such as making loan repayment conditions easier besides introducing proposals to ensure Malaysia remains an attractive investment destination.This is particularly so in the global supply chain for which a high-technology fund worth RM500 will be made available to support high-technology and innovative companies.A major initiative is making Malaysia a destination for high-value service chains, for which the government will relax tax incentive conditions, as well as the setting up of the global trading centre at a concessionary rate.He has also given prominence to ensure business continuity and economic resilience as reflected by continuing funds amounting to RM15 billion for big-ticket infrastructure projects, projects in development corridors and announcing new ones.Some RM2 billion would also be channelled to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a move which will go a long to providing sizeable number of jobs, given that the SME sector is the backbone of the Malaysian economy.Pertinent in the budget address were measures to create 500,000 employment opportunities in 2021, which is crucial as many lost their jobs due to the movement control order (MCO) and conditional MCO measures to curb the pandemic.To this end, the formation of the National Employment Council chaired by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin would be a major initiative to create jobs, enhance skills and training, which is very much needed, given that thousands of school leavers and graduates enter the job market every year.Like in previous budgets, Bumiputera economic empowerment initiatives would be further promoted with an allocation of RM11.1 billion.Another plus point in the budget is that certain tax relief measures, lower Employee Provident Fund (EPF) contributions of 9.0 per cent from 11 per cent now and withdrawals from Account 1, one-off payments to civil servants and pensioners will give a boost to the consumption sector.As for the EPF itself, a significant development is that it will proceed with the RM50 billion Kwasa Damansara commercial and residential properties development, which will create 100,000 jobs.The RM1 billion allocation for digital transformation is vital to expand and make more efficient mobile payments which has become very necessary due to the pandemic.This together with the RM35 million to promote Malaysian-made products and RM150 million for the Shop Malaysia Online initiative will give a fillip to the country as an online shopping paradise.The palm oil sector has cause to celebrate in view that besides current high prices, the budget has allocated RM20 million for sustainable certification programmes, a move which will increase the commodity’s acceptability in developed markets which demand sustainable products in their imports.To the relief of cigarette manufacturers and possibly the chagrin of certain smokers, who prefer cheaper smuggled cigarettes, the government imposed a slew of sin taxes to tackle the tobacco black market.This augurs well for Malaysia in combating smuggling which is regarded as the number one destination in the world for illegal cigarettes.The 2021 budget worth RM322.5 billion together with the earlier fiscal stimulus initiatives such as Prihatin, Penjana and Kita Prihatin worth RM305 million certainly demonstrates the government’s commitment to safeguard the people’s lives and ensure their livelihoods.But as Muhyiddin pointed out in remarks Thursday, this is no time for complacency as it is important is for all sections of society to join hands to implement the budget effectively and for the government to beef up its delivery system.Tengku Zafrul echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiment when he concluded his budget speech with an emphatic call that no matter what challenges and problems Malaysia faces, it is the people’s combined strength that will take them through troubled waters.This entails sacrifices and perseverance by the bold people of Malaysia and the government, including lawmakers from both sides of the political divide to unite, fight and win what is surely a battle, the likes of which is unprecedented in the modern history of mankind.-Bernama
Original Source