Let’s Find Out What The People Want From Budget 2023
With Budget 2023 right around the corner, organisations representing interest groups from builders to teachers and civil servants have all publicly asked for a bigger share of the Budget 2023. Each have focused on the sector they represent and everyone wants to stake their claim.
For example, Cuepacs wants a 1-month bonus for civil servants whereas the property sector is asking for house buyers incentives such as grants for first time buyers and lower fixed rate financing. Even Airbnb has called for the establishment of a clear framework for short term rental accommodation to be addressed in Budget 2023.
Meanwhile government ministries are also staking their claim, with the Education Ministry publicly requesting that teachers be issued with laptops and the Health Ministry is seeking to boost spending on mental health services.
While these interest groups are able to make the government notice their claims, what about the man on the street? These individual voices of the rakyat are lost in the sea of experts and professional bodies.
After all, these are the people who are going to be affected the most by Budget 2023 right? So why not ask them what they want instead? Let’s find out what exactly they want.
My dad wants an increase in his pension
In my journey to find out what the people want from Budget 2023, why not start right here at home right? Which is why the first person I asked was my dad – a former accountant for a government linked company.
When posed with the question of what he wants from Budget 2023, my dad’s answer was a straightforward one – ‘an increase in pensions’. Probed further for his reasoning, he said the answer is simple.
While government servants receive a lifetime pension after retiring, the pension amount is not adjusted to inflation. With the onset of inflation, after many years the amount might not be enough, which forces retirees to find other sources of income; especially if they don’t have any savings. Inflation currently stands at 3.4% and is expected to increase in 2023.
On average, about 1.6 million Malaysians are on government pensions, and a substantial number of them are receiving less than RM1000 a month. This makes it difficult for them to provide for their families while still fighting off the effects of inflation to survive on just their pension payments.
More employment schemes with fairer wages
After my dad, I decided to ask a close friend of mine, Michael (not his real name), what he wanted from Budget 2023. And again, for context, he’s 31 years old, and since he graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 2018, he has never held down a regular job.
When asked what he wants from Budget 2023, his answer was pretty close to his heart, as he wanted more employment schemes. However, this raises a very interesting question.
As we have covered in our Budget 2022 recap article, the government has in fact introduced several employment schemes in Budget 2022; reducing Malaysia’s unemployment rate from 4.3% in the fourth quarter of 2021, to 3.7% in July 2022.
However, all this is not enough, according Michael. Instead, what he believes the government should be focusing on in Budget 2023, is creating employment schemes that provide jobs according to qualifications, and with fair wages.
He remarked that even if the unemployment rate has dropped thanks to the schemes introduced, there is still a need for the government to work with the private sector to create opportunities for qualified graduates to secure jobs that offer a livable wage.
This problem is by no means new, as horror stories about fresh undergraduates receiving a starting pay of RM1800 have been making its rounds for a long time already. In fact, last month, our Prime Minister himself gave assurance that the government is taking this issue seriously.
Another aspect that can be looked at by the government perhaps is the minimum wage in Malaysia. Earlier this year, the government increased the minimum wages to RM1,500 per month. While the intentions were positive, the impact of the regulations are unknown due to a lack of enforcement.
So perhaps, this is something that should be looked at by the government in Budget 2023, as it also will help in combating the effects of inflation towards the general public.
Something for M40s
And finally, I asked a former colleague of mine for her opinion on what should be included in Budget 2023. Danielle works as a senior marketing manager for an agency, and she’s just recently delivered her first child with her husband, making her household one of the many young families looking to get settled in the big city.
But unlike others, her answer is a very complicated one to dissect, as in her words, she wants “something, anything for the M40s”.
The government was well criticised as the M40 group was largely thought of as being neglected in Budget 2022, even though they are largely affected by the same problems that ails the B40.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the government has always neglected the M40 income group, as there has been policies in previous budgets that directly benefitted the M40, such as the income tax rate reduction in Budget 2021, and the vehicle sales tax exemption (the vehicle sales tax exemption has ended on June 30th, 2022).
But with the rising cost of living affecting the quality of life for many Malaysians, perhaps Budget 2023 should be where the government introduces more targeted policies for the M40s.
Then, how can the government help the M40? Well, one of the more popular suggestions are tax breaks and exemptions from stamp duties for property purchase. Some experts have also called for the return of budget shops, which can help the M40 stave off the effects of the rising cost of living.
Judging from the people I asked, it seems like the government will have to go out of their way to appease some of the things asked for right here. However, the government still has to consider the larger impact on the economy as well.
According to World Bank’s chief economist Apurva Sanghi, Budget 2023 will be expansive because a general election is around the corner and with most Malaysians still yet to recover from the pandemic years. At the same time, the country still needs to strengthen the healthcare system and allocate funding for the ongoing 12th Malaysia Plan.
In a series of comments posted on his Twitter handle, he highlighted the near term challenges for most Malaysians.
“Our latest survey finds that 70% of lower-income households can’t even meet monthly basic needs — more than 60% of these households reported having no savings.
“Food inflation was above 7% and Malaysian women remain held back from the labour force. Overall productivity growth remains mixed,” he wrote.
Does this mean that the things the public wished for in this article will remain as a pipe dream?