After the Budget 2018 announcement, we spoke to several experts in the personal finance industry for their opinions. Throughout the article, we will highlight some of the policies and arguments made by the experts towards the effectiveness and efficiency of the policies.
See also: Malaysia Budget 2019 – Live Updates
Related: Budget 2019: Summary Infographics
If you want a recap, check out the key policies that were announced in Budget 2018 here. Overall, it is safe to say that the government has implemented a safe approach by being inclusive of all Malaysians from different backgrounds including income group, race, and job sector.
Is it enough?
Income Tax Reduction Is Good But More Needs To Be Done
According to the latest Budget 2018, individual income tax for Malaysians for the tax bracket of RM20,000-RM70,000 will be reduced by two percentage points.
Taxable income bracket between:
- RM20,001-RM35,000: Reduced from 5% to 3%
- RM35,001-RM50,000: Reduced from 10% to 8%
- RM50,001-RM70,000: Reduced from 16% to 14%
In a phone interview with Agensi Kaunseling dan Pengurusan Kredit (AKPK)’s Financial Education Department trainer & head of outreach, Desmond Chong, he stated that the income tax rate reduction of 2% will free up disposable income between RM300 to RM1,000 (average per person), however, it is not substantial when you divide it by 12 months.
“I think the government should increase both income tax relief items and income tax cap eligible for this relief to RM100,000 so more from M40 group can enjoy this benefit. Overall, I expected more tax relief items to help lift the burden of the M40 group,” he added.
Striking the same note with Chong, author of mr-stingy.com, Aaron Tang noted that the reduction is a welcomed boost but may not help much in terms of improving the situation of escalating costs of living.
“What was concerning to me was there are now even fewer taxpayers, which makes me wonder how the government will fund its programs. I was actually expecting larger taxes for the rich, which I think is very fair,” Tang pointed out.
The wealth gap has widened as pointed out by Blindspot, an economic think tank. Apparently, only 33% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 went to wages while the rest went to companies for profit. In advanced countries, the distribution is almost reversed – 50% to 60% of GDP goes towards wages and the remainder goes to the company as profits.
The widening income gap can also be observed through the distribution of funds in the Employee’s Provident Fund (EPF), where more than half of the savings belongs to just 0.4% of the members, which translates into about RM47.2 billion in the accounts of just 28,727 EPF members of the total 3.6 million members. The rest owns a collective fund of RM43.9 bil.
Little Adjustments To Goods Service Tax (GST)
As it turns out, GST is here to stay for another year and many of us are disappointed to see that the government did not make many adjustments to lighten the weight from the tax policy on living costs. The only announcement that touched the topic was zero-rated GST will be implemented on all reading materials including all types of magazines, comics, journals and periodicals, effective 1 January 2018.
Chong opined that more Malaysians including students are relying on a digital platform for education and reading purposes, rather than books and physical copies, hence, this policy may not bring a meaningful impact to the locals as intended.
Throughout the years GST was implemented, Malaysians have been making tougher choices in their lifestyle. However, this could be a silver lining for us to learn something from it, according to Financial Planning Association Malaysia (FPAM)’s CEO, Linnet Lee.
“Malaysians will learn to be more discerning in their purchases, aiming for value in quality durable goods to reduce their replacement and incurring more GST payment. Furthermore, purchases will be more for essential items rather than wants. In this light, it would be great to see Malaysians plan better for their personal finances, practice delayed gratification on the purchase of non-essential items and demand for the right quality of goods and services that matches the price tag and fees charged,” she told CompareHero.my.
Abolished Tolls Do Not Benefit All Malaysians
Starting 1 January 2018, the following tolls will abolish fee collections: Batu Tiga, Shah Alam
Sungai Rasau, Selangor, Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah, and Eastern Dispersal Link, Johor. Despite some cheers from the people living in the vicinity within the tolls, many are concerned over the decision as it may not be an efficient move.
In an announcement by Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani after Budget 2018 was revealed, he clarified that the government had to absorb the losses incurred by the companies involved in the toll abolishment.
On this issue, Chong said that only a small group of people will benefit at the cost of taxpayers’ money. He hopes that government may look into this further and apply the same policy to more other tolls to benefit Malaysians in different states.
Maybe a lower public transport cost instead?
Women Need More In Workplace
In the new Budget, the government has also introduced a mandatory period of 90 days for maternity leave in the private sector, an increase from the current 60 days. As applauded by many Malaysians, this is a good start to embrace women employees in the private sector.
However, we can’t help but wonder what else could be done to encourage more women to contribute to the economy after delivering their children? As a working woman herself, Lee from FPAM hopes to see subsidy on childcare centres at the workplace as some women may want to work but are hampered by childcare facilities.
“The prolonged maternity leave may affect employment policies for women especially in smaller companies where their workforce is lean and mean. To get a replacement staff whilst existing staff goes on maternity may increase their cost of operation which they may not be able to afford. Nevertheless, the effort to help women and families have a balanced life is appreciated, perhaps more discussion is required to fine tune the idea. This may help support the call to increase women's participation at board levels at GLC, GLIC and statutory bodies,” says Lee as she reflects upon the proposed 90 days maternity leave for the private sector.
Despite so, Chong is optimistic about the move and said that this will allow more women to be more open towards supporting their families’ finances as relying on a single income is too stressful nowadays.
Here Are The Experts’ Favorite Policy
We also asked them about their favourite part of the Budget 2018 announcement and here’s what they have to say.
Aaron Tang: Education is very close to my heart, especially university students -- so I was very happy to see the increased allocation for the Ministry of Higher Education, and also overall increase budget for Education.
Linnet Lee: Services provided by local authorities are not subjected to GST as income tax payments by Malaysians and companies are already allocated for such services, perhaps it can be extended to all government services as well, not just local authorities. Also, the encouragement to attract women back into the workforce with personal tax exemptions is inspiring.
Desmond Chong: Personal income tax rate reduction brings the most direct impact on us (M40 group) and several measures to help B40 group such as BR1M handouts (same as last year), allowance assistance for the vulnerable groups and students.
Are you delighted or worried by the latest Budget 2018? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below!