RM5b to be spent on Covid-19

Finance minister says amendment from RM1b to RM5b takes into account the govt’s commitment in providing vaccines


THE government will fork out a total of RM5 billion to curb the infection of Covid-19 in Malaysia, where RM3 billion is for vaccine procurement alone, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said.

The remaining RM2 billion will be used for the purchase of equipment, medical supplies, consumables, personal protection equipment, reagents and test kits related to the coronavirus treatment.

“Amendment of name and amount limit for the provision for the Health Ministry (MoH)-related expenses for Covid-19 amounted to RM1 billion, to an amount of RM5 billion, taking into account the government’s commitment in providing vaccines,” he told Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

The amount was amended under the Temporary Measures for Government Financing (Coronavirus Disease 2019) (Amendment) Bill 2020 which was passed by lawmakers in a voice vote The bill includes the additional RM20 billion expenditure allotted for Malaysia’s stimulus packages and the government’s economic recovery plan from the current RM45 billion to reduce the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

To date, Tengku Zafrul said the government has utilised RM38 billion from the initial RM45 billion allocated for the pandemic relief.

“The total stimulus package is worth RM305 billion, while the 2021 budget is worth RM322.5 billion.

“The amount includes contributions from various sources such as Bank Negara Malaysia, government-linked companies, government agencies, guarantee schemes and tax incentives,” he said.

The bill involves amendments to the amount of wage subsidy programmes, employment retention and recruitment incentives, as well as training assistance to RM18.3 billion from RM16.8 billion.

Among other amendments are the additional allocation for the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional which was raised from RM11.2 billion to RM25.2 billion, as well as the SME Prihatin Grant from RM1.9 billion to RM2.4 billion.

The lower house also passed amendments to four other bills — Sales Tax (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Service Tax (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Tourism Tax (Amendment) Bill 2020 and Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill 2020.

During the winding-up session for the service tax, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the government has collected RM427.65 million in digital service tax as of Dec 11, 2020.

The 6% digital tax imposed on digital services by foreign providers came into effect on Jan 1 this year on providers such as Netflix Inc, Spotify AB, Google LLC and Airbnb Inc.

Previously, Tengku Zafrul said 248 foreign service providers had registered for the tax as of July 31, 2020.

The tax will be imposed on foreign digital service providers with sales of more than RM500,000 a year following the Service Tax (Amendment) Act 2019 which was passed in the Dewan Rakyat in April last year.

The Act stated that tax defaulters could be fined up to RM50,000, or imprisoned for a term of up to three years, or both, upon conviction.

The Dewan Rakyat concluded its 29-day sitting, the last meeting for 2021, before lawmakers convene to an unspecified date next year.

The second reading of five bills scheduled for yesterday will also be brought onto the next meeting, including the Windfall Profit Levy (Amendment) Bill 2020, Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill 2020, Factories and Machinery (Repeal) Bill 2020, Malaysian Space Board Bill 2020 and Independent Police Conduct Commission Bill 2020.