Dewan Rakyat approves Budget 2018

Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

The Dewan Rakyat passed Budget 2018 yesterday, after lawmakers deliberated the Supply Bill 2018 (SUPB) at the policy stage for the past fortnight.

The SUPB was approved by parliamentarians, after a bloc vote process presided by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia (picture).

“After the bloc vote exercise, I would like to announce that 11 MPs have abstained from voting, some 59 MPs have opposed, while 107 MPs have agreed to pass the SUPB,” said Pandikar.

Lawmakers are expected to further scrutinise the SUPB at the committee stage beginning today until Nov 28, 2017.

Earlier during the winding up of debates, Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani said the Malaysian economy has remained sound, with federal debt and inflation under control.

“The federal debt remains under control at RM680 billion, or 50.9%, of our gross domestic product, which is very sound compared to other developing and developed economies,” he told the august house.

The debt level is well below the government’s self-imposed debt ceiling of 55%, the minister said.

Johari said the government is healthy fiscally as it remains capable of servicing debts, interests of debts, as well as salaries of public servants.

Meanwhile, lawmakers had also expressed their displeasure on the operating system of the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), which is seen to be pushing limits in meeting tax collection targets.

Bandar Kuching MP Chong Chieng Jen asked Johari to correct the IRB’s tax collection style, which was likened to “tax terrorism”, while Seputeh MP Teresa Kok said the IRB should provide leeway for deserving taxpayers to settle arrears.

To this, Johari said the IRB had been asked to be efficient in tax collection by fixing leakages and improving leakages.

“When they (the IRB) was lenient and had a sof t approach, they received bashing in this august house, so they have now become efficient,” he said.

Johari added that the IRB, however, will be asked to deal more politely with taxpayers — especially selected deserving cases.

On another note, Johari said the government will need to fork out over RM338 billion to abolish all tolls in the country.

“We cannot afford to compensate RM330 billion by abolishing tolls nationwide as the government has absorb the companies’ debt as well,” he said, adding that taking over all the concessionaires based on future earnings estimates alone will cost the government RM45.2 billion.

He was asked on the relevance of two tolls removal in Federal Highway and one in Bukit Kayu Hitam beginning next year, as announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak during the tabling of Budget 2018 last month.

On the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Johari said the ministry was aware of selected cases of business closure after the introduction of the consumption tax.

He said that not all the cases, however, can be associated with the GST as it involves various factors such as old age, competition and transition of business ownerships.

“The ministry is investigating the businesses which were reportedly closed after GST. I cannot reveal the details as it is still under investigation,” he said.

In Budget 2018, Najib had proposed an allocation of RM280.25 billion, with an 84% al location for operating expenditure and the remaining 16% for development expenditure.

The total allocation in Budget 2017 was RM260.8 billion, 7.5% lower than the budget next year. The Dewan Rakyat will reconvene today.