The 2013 Budget fails to fails to address three crucial areas – Fiscal Prudence, Economic Sustainability and Cost of Living Increases.(en/cn)

Even though many goodies where announced during yesterday’s Budget 2013 speech by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, this budget has failed the Malaysian people by not addressing three crucial areas which are necessary to guarantee the long term well-being of our country and its people – namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases.

Firstly, even though the budget deficit is projected to come down from 4.5% in 2012 to a ‘mere’ 4.0% in 2013, this figure masks the poor track record of the BN government in sticking to its spending plans. For example, total expenditure for Budget 2012 was announced at RM232.8b in last’s year’s budget speech. But in this year’s Economic Report 2012 / 2013, total expenditure for 2012 is projected to total up to RM252.4b. This is almost RM20b more than the projected expenditure announced last year.

We were fortunate that projected revenue is expected to be RM207b for 2012, RM20b more than the RM186.9b projected revenue announced last year. Without this tax ‘windfall’, our budget deficit would have ballooned up to 6.7% of GDP rather than the projected 4.5% for 2012. But we cannot expect that actual revenue will continue to exceed projected revenue especially given the slowing global economy. Furthermore revenue from oil related tax revenue is likely to decrease given the change in the dividend policy of Petronas as well as political uncertainty in Southern Sudan which could decrease Petronas’s bottom line by as much as US1 billion.

While we do not object to giving financial assistance to the truly deserving, there is nothing to indicate that the government has stopped leakages in the BR1M program which went to people like an MCA Datuk in Pahang. The initial RM1.8b that was allocated to BR1M for 3.4m households in the 2012 budget ballooned to over RM2b for over 4m households. A country whose GDP is projected to expand by 5% in 2012 should see fewer households earning less than 3000RM. And yet, BR1M recipients are projected to increase to 4.3m households with another 2.7m individuals earning less than 2000RM joining them. Without proper checks and balances, the RM3b that has been allocated to BR1M 2.0 for Budget 2013 can easily increase to more than RM4b, if not more.
The same lack of fiscal prudence could be seen in the expenditure on subsidies. An allocation of RM32.8b was given for subsidies in Budget 2012 but the actual expenditure on subsidies is projected to be at RM42.4b, an increase of RM9.6b or 29.3% over the original budget! If the same kind of trajectory is followed, the RM37.6b which is allocated for subsidies in Budget 2013 could easily increase to almost RM50b!

Given the BN’s poor record for fiscal prudence and especially if elections are held next year, it is likely that BN will break the bank to funnel out as much taxpayer’s money as possible in a blatant attempt to buy votes by giving handouts irresponsibly. I would not be surprised if our total expenditure will be RM30b over budget and our budget deficit for 2013 would end up well in excess of 5.0%!

Secondly, this budget provides incentives and handouts which favors certain projects and parties rather than providing the basis for longer term sustainable economic growth that will benefit all. In fact, many of these incentives will skew the system against hardworking Malaysian entrepreneurs who are not in the position to receive and benefit from these incentives.

For example, Budget 2013 continues to give preferred incentives and tax treatments for companies who want to locate to and developers who want to build in the Tun Razak Exchange formerly known as the Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) including tax exemptions for property developers, income tax exemption for 10 years for TRX-status companies, stamp duty exemptions, industrial building allowance and accelerated capital allowances for TRX Marquee-status companies.

The aggressive promotion of TRX not only increases the problem of a property glut in commercial office space in Kuala Lumpur, it also unfairly disadvantages developers who own and are in the process of developing commercial property which TRX is directly competing against. These developers would lose out if existing or future tenants decide to relocate to TRX and at the same time, the taxpayer would also lose out since these companies would be given income tax exemption for 10 years. As part of this initiative, 1MDB will be allocated an additional RM400m from the Prime Minister’s Department in Budget 2013, an unnecessary expenditure for what is essentially a property development project.

Similarly, under the guise of lowering prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, the government is introducing 57 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia or KR1M stores at the cost of RM386m. Just like in Peninsular Malaysia, the ones who will be hurt by this move are the owners of the kedai runcit stores who cannot compete against the government subsidized KR1M stores. It would make more sense for the government to abolish the cabotage policy and to improve the transportation network in Sabah and Sarawak to reduce prices of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, which is what Pakatan is proposing, rather than to subsidize KR1M stores that are run by one private company which would drive out many existing kedai runcit owners out of business.

These kinds of initiatives contradict PM Najib’s statement that the era of ‘government knows best is over’. Indeed, according to the Economic Report 2012 / 2013, the public sector is expected to expand by 13.3% in 2012 to account for 25.2% of GDP (up from 23.3% in 2011), meaning that the government will play a larger role in the economy, rather than to reduce its footprint and to allow the private sector to thrive and drive the economy forward. By promoting and undertaking these initiatives, Najib is contradicting one of the major thrust of the New Economic Model (NEM) and also the impetus behind the Economic Transformation Program (ETP).
Thirdly, this budget fails to bring to the table long term solutions for the problem of rising cost of living, especially in the urban areas.

Crime is one of the main drivers of cost of living increases. Businesses which have to spend more on security pass the costs to consumers. Residents who have to pay for private security have less disposable income. Sadly, the measures which are in Budget 2013 to reduce crime leave much to be desired.

There are no recommendations to re-organize the police force by re-allocating Special Branch officers, which have twice as many investigating officers / detectives as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), or by re-allocating some of the 14,000 General Operations Force (GOF) police personnel, an organizational legacy from the Communist fighting days, to the CID and the frontlines of fighting crime.

Instead, what was provided was the allocation of RM20m to buy 1000 motorcycles at a cost of RM20,000 per motorcycle to set up a Motorcycle Patrolling Unit.

In addition, there were hardly any efforts proposed to involve the state and local authorities to fight crime. All that was mentioned as the allocation to buy 496 units of CCTVs for 25 local authorities to prevent street crimes in urban areas. This works out to 20 units of CCTVs for every local authority which is not even sufficient to cover one neighborhood, much less the area in one state authority.

Similarly, the ambitious program to build more than 100,000 affordable and low cost houses will come to naught if these housing projects are not integrated with public transportation. The MRT project and the LRT extension cannot possibly cover all the areas which have or will have low cost and affordable homes, assuming that they even get built. Allowing the state and local authorities to provide bus services would be one possible solution to this problem. But instead of this, the federal government is expanding the federally owned RAPID bus services to other places, this time to Kuantan.

With car prices still at very unaffordable levels, especially for the lower middle income groups, the issue of affordable and low cost housing cannot be seen in isolation from the issue of public transportation. Unfortunately, PM Najib does not seem to have realized this as seen by his Budget 2013.

Pakatan Rakyat’s budget, on the other hand, exercises much more fiscal prudence. Not only is our projected deficit lower at 3.5% of GDP or approximately RM37b, our revenue and expenditure projections are also much more conservative, at RM197b and RM234b respectively. A more conservative budget would give us more room to maneuver if Pakatan does take over power at the federal level and puts its budget in place.

PR’s budget is also more economically sustainable in that we do not attempt to favor one sector or project over another. Instead we will set out to abolish monopolies, abolish unfair practices and increase competition in all sectors of the economy.

Our budget also gives more focus on long term solutions to address cost of living issues including a proper redeployment and reallocation of police personnel to fight crime, more involvement of local authorities to reduce crime and provide public transportation alternatives, reduce and abolish toll rates to put money back into the pockets of the people and to find new ways of providing affordable public housing.

The choice for Malaysians is very clear. Najib’s 2013 budget is full of one shot goodies and handouts which do not adequately address the long term concerns of the country namely fiscal prudence, economic sustainability and cost of living increases. Pakatan, through its Alternative Budget, and through the state governments in Penang and Selangor, have shown that it can govern with fiscal responsibility in mind, with sustainable policies which encourage fair competition and with measures that puts money in the pockets of the people in the long term. Let the people of Malaysia choose wisely.

Lim Guan Eng

—Mandarin Version —-

民主行动党秘书长兼峇眼区国会议员林冠英于2012年9月30日在吉隆坡针对2013年预算案发表声明:

2013年财政预算案无法应付三个关键议题:审慎理财、经济永续性及百物上涨。

虽然首相纳吉在宣布2013年财政预算案时,大派糖果,但是,这份预算案无法应付三个能为我国及人民带来长远利益的关键议题:审慎理财、经济永续性及生活成本提高。

第一,虽然财政赤字预料会从2012年4.5%降至2013年的4%,这显示国阵政府无法按照开销计划行事。例如,去年宣布的2012年预算开销为2328亿令吉,但是,2012-2013年经济报告指出2012年的总开销上升至2524亿令吉。这比去年所计划的开销预算多出200亿令吉。

我们很幸运,2012年的预算税收为2070亿令吉,比去年预算的1896亿令吉高出200亿令吉。没有这笔税收,我们的财政赤字将会增加到国民生产总值的6.7%,而不是2012年所预计的4.5%。但是,由于全球经济放缓,我们不能期待实际的税收会超出预算的税收。而且,随着南苏丹不确定局势、国油股息政策的改变,将削减国油的底线达10亿美元,我国的石油税收可能减少。

我们不反对提供财务援助给真正有需要的人士,然而,政府没有对策显示他们已经阻止“一个马来西亚援助金”的疏漏,如彭亨州马华拿督也获得援助金。这笔18亿令吉的一马援助金原本要在2012年发给340万个家庭,却发放了20亿令吉给超过400万个家庭。一个国家若在2012年预算国民生产总值将增加5%,那么,收入低于3000令吉的家庭应该要减少。但是,一个马来西亚援助金的领取者预计将增加到430万个家庭,还加上月入底于2000令吉270万的个人。没有良好的监督,2013年的一个马来西亚援助金2.0所预算的30亿令吉,很轻易地会增加到40亿令吉。

政府财务不审慎能够从津贴的支出中可以看出。2012年预算案中拨出328亿令吉给津贴支出,但是实际上的津贴支出预料高达424亿令吉,比原本的预算高出96亿令吉或29.3%!如果依据同样的轨迹,2013年的津贴预算376亿令吉,很容易地会变成500亿令吉!

看来国阵的审慎理财记录实在恶劣,如果明年举行大选,看来国阵会掏空银行,尽可能将纳税钱的人用来派钱收买选票。如果我们的总开销比预算超出300亿令吉,2013年财政赤字增加5.0%,我一点也不会惊讶。

其二,这份预算案提供的奖掖及施惠是为了特定的计划及群体,而不是为了全民长远的经济可持续发展。很多奖掖忽略勤劳的马来西亚企业家,他们没有资格领取这些奖掖。

例如,2013年财政预算案继续提供奖掖和税务优惠给那些要迁往敦拉萨交易所(TRX,前吉隆坡国阵金融区域)的公司及发展商,包括产业发展商免税、拥有敦拉萨交易所(TRX-Status)地位的公司可享有10年所得税豁免、印花税豁免、而拥有TRX-Marquee地位的公司可享有工业建筑津贴及促进资本津贴。

政府极力地推广TRX不只让吉隆坡商业办公室的供过于求更加严重,对那些拥有商业房产或正在发展商业房产的发展商不利,因为他们必须与TRX直接竞争。如果现有的或未来的租户决定迁移至TRX,这对发展商不利,同时对纳税人也不利,因为这些公司可享有10年的免税。一个马来西亚发展有限公司(1MDB)在2013年预算案中,将获得首相署额外4亿令吉拨款,这笔开销对于一项产业发展项目是不必要的。

同样地,以降低沙巴及砂拉越州物价为名,政府将花费3亿8600万令吉,设立57家一个马来西亚商店,就像马来半岛那样,这将打击那些杂货店的经营业者,他们将无法与这些政府津贴的商店竞争。当局还不如废除各种不利的政策,改善沙巴、砂拉越的交通网络,来降低两州的物价,这也是民联的主张。而不是津贴一家公司来经营一个马来西亚商店,然后去打击许多现有的杂货店。

上述做法也违背了首相纳吉的声明,他说过“政府懂得什么是最好的”时代已经过去。2012-2013年经济报告指出,公共领域预料将在2012年扩大13.3%,占国民生产总值的25.2%(2011年为23.3%),意味着政府将在经济扮演更重要的角色,而不是减少它的参与,让私人界成功主导经济前进。政府在经济的参与面扩大,也与新经济模式的主要关键推动力及经济转型计划的主力相违。

第三,这份预算案无法提供长远的解决方案,应付日趋高涨的生活水平,特别是城市地区。

罪案是百物上涨其中一项导因。做生意的,必须要花费更多钱在保安措施,最终将转嫁在消费人身上。居民为了支付私人保安费也少了可支出收入。然而,2013年预算案并没有提及减轻罪案率的措施。

政府也没有提出要重新调配警员,将政治部人员或1万4000多名的普通行动组(GOF)的警员谴派往打击罪案的前线。政治部人员是罪案调查人员的两倍,而普通行动组的警员是打击共产党时代遗留下来的组织。

反之,政府要拨出2000万令吉来购买1000部(每部2万令吉)的电单车,设立电单车巡逻队。

此外,当局也没有建议让州政府及地方政府参与打击罪案。预算案中只提及为25个地方政府购买496部闭路电视,打击阻遏城区的街头罪案。算起来,这相等于每一个地方政府约有25部闭路电视来阻遏城区街头罪案,这根本不足以应付一个住宅区,更何况是一个地方政府。

同样地,政府立志兴建10万个可负担、廉价房屋单位,如果不与公共交通系统衔接起来,政府也努力也是白费的。假设这些房屋建好了,地铁计划及轻快铁的扩建不可能连接全部廉价或可负担房屋。其中一项解决方案是让州政府及地方政府提供巴士服务。但是,联邦政府却将联邦拥有的RAPID快捷通巴士扩展到其它地方,这一次是关丹。

目前的汽车价格还是属于难以负担水平,特别是中低收入群体,可负担廉价房屋绝对不能与公共交通切割开来。不幸的是,在2013年预算案中首相纳吉并没有关注这一点。

另一方面,民联的预算案,更加重视审慎理财。我们不只将预算赤字降低至国民生产水平的3.5%或370亿令吉,我们的税收及开销预算也更加保守,分别为1970亿令吉及2340亿令吉。如果民联执政,一个保守的预算案让我们拥有更多的能动空间,提呈适当的预算案。

民联的预算案也更加经济可持续,我们不只照顾一个领域或一个项目。我们会废除垄断、不公平的政策措施、提升经济各领域的竞争力。

我们的财政预算将提供更多长远的方案,来应付百物上涨的问题,包括妥善地重新调遣、调派警员,打击罪案;让地方政府参与打击罪案、提供公共交通系统、减少及废除过路费、放钱进人民口袋、寻找新的方法来提供可负担房屋。

马来西亚人的选择很明确。纳吉2013年预算案满盘皆是糖果及施惠,无法适当地解决我国长远面对关键议题:审慎理财、经济永续性及百物上涨。通过民联的替代预算案、槟州及雪州,我们已经证明,我们能够负责任地管理财务、以可持续的政策鼓励公平竞争,推出把钱放进人民口袋的措施。就让全体人民做出聪明的选择。

林冠英

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