Date of publication: Oct 26, 2013
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 014
PESSIMISM has lost out. The 2014 Budget demonstrates that the Prime Minister cum Finance Minister is not given to false promises and that the Well-Being Index is seriously meant by his government. Datuk Seri Najib Razak deserves applause for presenting a Budget that will safeguard the country's economy and the people's happiness, with every quarter needing help assisted. Between the welfare measures like the different direct payment to adults, children, the old and the disabled alike on the one hand and on the other tax relief, tax incentives and tax cuts for various categories of earners in the country, it appears that no group has been left out as beneficiaries of a budget that should, theoretically, be far from giving. Instead, so inclusive is the 2014 Budget that low-income workers can now look forward to receiving the long-awaited minimum wage.
Built on five main thrusts of uplifting the economy, ensuring the country's resilience, to further enhance human capital, to increase the pace of rural development and, finally the Well-Being Index, there is no doubting the Budget's intention. And as the PM suggested, measures to maintain economic resilience are no less important to the long-term well being of Malaysians. What is interesting is how this Budget has defeated the popular maxim, "no pain no gain". In this instance, working towards reducing the deficit has meant the choice of a more painless approach of happiness. The most obvious example is how the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is being introduced. Firstly, the end of the current sales and services tax (SST). Secondly, the GST rate is lower than that of the SST. Thirdly, it does not apply to basic goods, such as food items, and services like transportation thus relieving the burden on low income Malaysians. Finally, to further relieve the economically disadvantaged there is a direct payment subsidy.
So comprehensive is the government's plan for 2014 - it includes connecting treated water and electricity supply to rural Sabah and Sarawak, including more roads and, upgrading Internet connectivity throughout the country - the impression is that the focus on transformation is never lost. For, among the elements of thrust three (enhancing human capital) is the development of an ethical and competent skilled manpower. If at all there is any group that is being penalised it is the property speculators through the Real Property Gains Tax, who, for the most part, are blamed for the rocketing house prices in the country. The sum total, therefore, is this Budget is nothing if not people-centred as expected by most observers.