THE government today tabled Budget 2023 amounting to RM372.3 billion that was inspired in part by ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ (the Malaysian Family) and aims to be “responsive, responsible and reformist”.
Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, in tabling the budget in the Dewan Rakyat, said RM272.3 billion was allocated for operating expenditure, RM95 billion for development expenditure and RM5 billion for the COVID-19 Consolidated Fund.
He expressed confidence that Budget 2023, which carries the theme ‘Keluarga Malaysia, Makmur Bersama’ (Malaysian Family, Prospering Together), would enable the Malaysian Family to face upcoming global challenges and, at the same time, provide for a bright future for the coming generations.
Tengku Zafrul said the budget was drawn up by also including the pooled ideas which came from the Malaysian Family.
“More than 100 initiatives of the people will be realised as part of the measures contained in this proposal,” he said, thanking those who had contributed their views.
Tengku Zafrul elaborated on the three agendas of “response, responsible and reformist”.
“Budget 2023 will be rapidly responsive to any challenge and through comprehensive aid to the Malaysian Family, not just the B40 group but also the M40, women, youths, people with disabilities and all segments of society,” he said.
Budget 2023 will be responsible for balancing the expansionary fiscal policy and implementation of fiscal renewal towards the government financial sustainability in the long term, he said.
He also said that the budget will be reformist in changing the national development landscape to make it more inclusive and sustainable, besides strengthening national industries through strategic investment.
Tengku Zafrul said the budget will ensure the people’s well-being, business continuity, economic prosperity and efficiency of government services.
Each of the three agendas has strategies for implementation and each of the strategies has several areas of focus. The responsive agenda has three strategies, one of which prioritises the people’s welfare with 12 areas of focus including the B40 group, M40, women, youths, social protection and cost of living.
Under one of these focus areas, RM7.8 billion is allocated for the Bantuan Keluarga Malaysia (BKM) to benefit 8.7 million recipients. The cash aid under the Welfare Department and BKM for 2023 will exceed RM10 billion.
To expedite the eradication of hardcore poverty, RM1 billion is to be provided, which comprises a government allocation of RM750 million and the remaining RM250 million coming through social corporate responsibility (CSR) programmes by government-linked companies (GLCs).
In the focus area on women, the budget proposes that the Securities Commission implement special training programmes to enhance women’s skills and identify eligible women as members of board of directors.
“I believe political parties are identifying and are determined to field more women candidates in the next general election,” he said. The 15th General Election is due by July 2023.
Under the focus area of cost of living, the budget allocates more than RM55 billion specially for subsidies, aid and incentives so as to minimise the cost of living through control of prices of goods and services.
For the focus area on education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), the Education Ministry receives the highest allocation of RM55.6 billion, up from the RM52.6 billion for 2022.
“In line with the agenda to empower TVET, which comes under the National TVET Council, a total of RM6.7 billion is set aside under seven main ministries to implement various TVET initiatives,” said Tengku Zafrul.
The budget also allocates RM1 billion for the welfare of the elderly, “a drastic increase” compared to the RM580 million provided in 2020.
Tengku Zafrul said the welfare of people with disabilities will continue to be given attention, and that RM1.2 billion has been allocated for this category of people, through aid for care of chronic patients, allowance for the disabled who are unable to work, and allowance for the handicapped.
The third strategy under the responsive agenda is on support for business, with the focus areas covering tax relief and cash grants, loans and financial guarantees and recovery of the tourism sector.
A sum of RM200 million is allocated for tourism promotion and marketing to assist the tourism sector to recover from the pandemic.
“A total of RM90 million is provided in the form of matching grant under the Tourism Promotion Matching Grant (GAMELAN),” Tengku Zafrul said during his two-hour speech.
He also said that to make Kuala Lumpur a creative and culture hub, the budget allocates RM10 million to ThinkCity for the regeneration of the city. Petaling Street in the city had been given a new lease of life through the collaboration of ThinkCity and Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
Three strategies come under the second ‘responsible’ agenda, namely fiscal responsibility, building national resilience and efficiency in public service delivery.
Tengku Zafrul said that despite the biggest budget of RM372.3 billion under an expansionary fiscal policy, the government, as a responsible one, will balance it with commitment to implement fiscal consolidation to ensure the country’s financial sustainability.
The budget allocates RM36.1 billion to the Health Ministry, the highest increase among ministries and higher than the RM32.4 billion for the ministry for this year.
A total of RM4.9 billion has been set aside for procurements such as medicines, reagents, vaccines and consumables. The allocation is 12 per cent higher than that for 2022.
Tengku Zafrul said the priority next year is to repair health facilities including dilapidated clinics and old equipment, particularly in the remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak, with an allocation of RM420 million.
Under the focus area of security and defence, RM18.3 billion and RM17.4 billion are allocated to the Home Ministry and Defence Ministry, respectively, to strengthen public order and national security.
Under the focus area of national preparedness for disasters, the government has allocated RM15 billion to implement the Flood Mitigation Plan up to 2030 as a long-term strategy to adapt to climate change.
The National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) will be allocated RM174 million for next year. For this year, an additional RM400 million is allocated to handle possible floods at the end of this year.
Cybersecurity Malaysia is to be allocated RM73 million to strengthen monitoring, identification and reporting of cyber threats, including building cyber forensic system capability.
For civil servants, in addition to the earlier announcements on special payment, the budget provides for payment of RM600 for the 2023 Aidilfitri payable in March.
A major focus area under the ‘reformist’ agenda is infrastructure development for which RM16.5 billion is allocated to the transportation sector, namely the Pan Borneo Highway, Gemas-Johor Bahru Electrified Double-Tracking Project (EDTP), East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link and Central Spine Road (CSR).
One strategy under the same agenda is inclusive development which, among others, focuses on rural infrastructure development for which RM2.55 billion is allocated to Sabah and Sarawak.
Another strategy under the agenda is sustainable development which, among others, will seek to intensify efforts in that area to address the effects of global warming. — BERNAMA