KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Cheaper homes and cars, an improved public transportation system, higher tax relief and a greater focus on plugging spending leakages — these are Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) demands of the government for Budget 2013 today.
But there remains doubt among leaders of the federal opposition that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be able to roll out such long-term measures that would see Malaysia on track with its high-income nation goal.
When the prime minister heads to Parliament this evening, he is expected to carry with him a briefcase full of cash promises to Malaysians; an “election budget” full of goodies as a quick measure to woo support ahead of next general election, which is just around the corner.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said, however, that such a budget would not sustainable and does not improve fiscal responsibility, largely since issues of governance and accountability would not be addressed.
“As long as you are not accountable, and wastages and corruption are not addressed, you budget cannot be seen as credible,” he told The Malaysian Insider recently.
He said that in the decades under Barisan Nasional’s (BN) leadership, the projections in the budget have rarely been taken seriously, both in terms of economic growth, investment projections or measures to deal with deficit.
“That, to me, must be central in a budget,” he said.
The former finance minister said the government must first ensure that the basic framework of Budget 2013 was to ensure efficient spending and to plug leakages, before it decides to roll out measures that are beneficial to Malaysians.
“I would want a budget that is responsible, that seriously addresses the issues affecting the masses.
“Once you consider this major framework, naturally, the issue of poverty alleviation comes along next because there are plenty of wastages at present.
“You must look at issues affecting the poor, public housing is a major issue and, of course, the issue of prices whereby there is a monopoly on the prices of essential goods like sugar and rice,” he said.
Anwar, who is also PR’s de facto leader, had yesterday launched the pact’s “alternative” budget, which promises to raise the disposable incomes of Malaysians through policies that Najib and his men in BN have criticised as being merely populist in nature.
In PR’s alternative budget, the federal opposition outlined its plans to slash car prices by reducing excise duties, abolish tolls and waive student loans, saying these measures would help reduce debt burdens on Malaysians.
To get a closer glimpse on what these leaders hope to see in Budget 2013, The Malaysian Insider has polled several PR and PR-friendly lawmakers on their personal budget wish lists.
PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli
“I would like a review of tax banding to reflect the current income levels. Currently, middle management and middle executives are taxed at the highest tax rate (for those earning above RM150,000), similar to the richest man in the country.
“I would like to see the setting up of a national housing board to handle affordable housing. I want to see a similar set up to rival HDB in Singapore because I truly believe housing for the masses should not be left to the market.
“I would like to see a reduction in car excise duties before they are completely phased out. It is unbelievable that Malaysians have to suffer this much because of taxes.”
PKR vice-president Fuziah Salleh, Kuantan MP
“I would like to see a gender-responsive budget (GRB). I will be looking for what are the proposals to overcome the stumbling block in implementing GRB. Specifically the problems related to data collection and lack of sex disaggregated data.
“I would like to see a budget that promotes green policies, as well as sustainable development. I wish there will be more incentives to promote more corporations to adopt and practice green policies.
“I would like to see a budget of parliamentary reforms. To practice the principle of separation of power in the true sense, Parliament should be given a budget allocation, not only for upgrading physical infrastructure but also for research, formation of committees as well as back-up facilities that can alleviate the status of our Parliament.”
Wanita PKR chief Zuraida Kamaruddin, Ampang MP
“I would like to see a good housing policy on low-cost homes for the poor — minimum public housing that offers three bedrooms, reasonable living room and kitchen.
“I would like to see more residential schools for girls especially in the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak. Make education for them safer and secure.
“I would like to see a better public transportation system — upgraded buses, a more systematic transportation arrangement.”
DAP deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw, Kepong MP
“As there is an economic slowdown in the US, monetary crisis in EU, slower growth in Japan and China, the Budget should allocate more for infrastructure projects. Allocation for education should not be reduced drastically and allocations for the poor and the handicapped should be maintained.”
DAP vice-chairman M. Kulasegaran, Ipoh Barat MP
“The top three areas I hope to see real changes are:
a) All Tamil schools will be made fully aided. Presently out of 523 Tamil schools, 370 schools are categorised as partially aided. These schools suffer financially and are always having to raise funds.
b) Review the Employment Act and further empower the workers. We need retrenchment benefits to be implemented as many who are retrenched face much hardship due to sudden loss of employment.
c) Tax relief should be increased. Presently the tax relief is RM6,000 per individual where Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and insurance premiums are lumped together. A separate tax relief on contributions to EPF and insurance premiums should be considered.
DAP deputy secretary-general Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, Beruas MP, Sitiawan assemblyman
“I would like to see approved permits (APs) for imported vehicles are issued at market value so that the government may collect the additional RM4 billion for the 100,000 APs issued annually if it wants to maintain a high car price policy.
“I would like to see a better public transportation system.
“Finally, money should be spent to upgrade our universities to world-class standards.”
Sarawak DAP chairman Wong Ho Leng, Sibu MP
“I would like to see serious workable measures against corruption. Corruption is our number one enemy. That is the source of all troubles, be they in government administration, the police and everyday life.
“I would like to see cheaper housing. In all towns and cities, property prices have become unbearable. We must ensure everyone has roof over their heads
“Give Sarawak and Sabah our rightful places and autonomy. Do not marginalise these states but treat us as equal partners, not merely separate states.”
Selangor DAP vice-chairman Charles Santiago, Klang MP
“Increase food production with a view on food security. Food prices have sky rocketed in the last year, and will increase in the next months. The government needs to encourage domestic food production to bring prices down.
“Promote a green economy. We need to move from a mass-production to a green economy. This requires more funds for public transportation, use of solar panels and where possible wind energy and more courses in local universities in this area.
“My final wish is for the government to fund human rights and environmental groups with funds disbursed through Suhakam.”
PAS central working committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Kuala Selangor MP
“My wish is for the government to stop cronyism, stop corruption and leakages and to stop the 14 years of budget deficits. They should know why... Umno-BN should change their ways or if they are remorseless and unrepentant, they will be changed by the rakyat.”
Dewan Muslimat PAS information chief Aiman Athirah
“I wish to see a people-centric development plan for the country, restore agriculture and agro-based activities as the foundation of the country’s economy and roll out welfare-based programmes at all levels of the government.”
PAS Youth chief Nasruddin Tantawi
“I would like to see a more equal distribution of the country’s wealth as well as a more comprehensive plan towards poverty alleviation.
“I would like to see a more youth-friendly economy for Malaysia, a budget that addresses the needs and future of our young such as proposals to encourage entrepreneurship among the youths in a variety of sectors.”
Wanita Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) chief Melanie Chi, Luyang assemblyman
“Firstly, the federal government must be fairer to the people of Sabah by giving us comparable basic infrastructures (good roads, clean water supply, reliable electricity supply, quality medical and health facilities, just to name the important few). The disparity gaps between Sabah and the rest of the country have to be narrowed.
“Secondly, seriously give Sabah the incentives it requires to propel the state’s economy.
“Finally, the government must come up with better fiscal measures to rectify and improve Malaysia’s financial position.”