Wish list for Budget 2013

PETALING JAYA - Lower taxes, more affordable homes, cheaper food and better public transport are among the items on the wish list from Malaysians for Budget 2013.

The Finance Ministry received 84 memoranda from various groups, NGOs and individuals on proposals for the upcoming Budget as it started off its first of 18 focus group meetings last week.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai said among the popular requests was for lower individual and corporate tax, which he said would be considered.

"We are looking at the tax structure along with the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which should come into effect soon," he said, adding that there were also requests for the Government to manage social problems caused by foreign workers.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers' Association (Fomca) highlighted five major issues in its memorandum.

They were related to food prices, the public transport system, healthcare, trade competition and crime in urban areas.

"To combat rising food prices, we want the Government to invest more in the agricultural sector.

"This will make us more self-sustainable and less dependent on imported foods," said Fomca chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj.

He said the consumer body also wanted better public transport subsidies, adding that it had proposed a subsidy scheme for public transport companies, based on schemes adopted by other countries.

"The Government should act as a regulator instead of getting involved directly," he added.

On healthcare, Fomca proposed that the current system be maintained as it was working well.

"We hope the Government enforces the Competition Act 2012 to liberalise the market, so that prices will drop and consumers will benefit from trade competition," he said.

The Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements and the abuse of dominant positions in the market.

He said crime was a key issue the Government needed to address, especially in the urban areas.

Cuepacs president Datuk Omar Osman said the umbrella body for civil sector unions would submit its wish list by early next month.

He said Cuepacs would also ask for cheaper homes and more incentives for civil servants.

The Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said its primary concern was on the country's tax structure.

"Corporate tax in Malaysia, at its current rate of 25 per cent, is still very high when compared with other countries in the region," said executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

"We are seeking a gradual reduction to at least 20 per cent," he said, comparing it with Singapore's corporate tax rate of 17 per cent.

On individual tax, he said, tax exemptions should not be capped at RM6,000 (S$2,400) but based on the actual amount instead because this would encourage Malaysians to increase their EPF contributions.

Shamsuddin said companies which hire retirees or retain employees beyond the retirement age should also be rewarded with tax benefits.

"People should be encouraged to work for as long as they can as this will reduce our dependence on foreign workers," he said, adding that employed senior citizens should also be given a tax break.

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