October is the month that many in Malaysia watch closely.
How different will Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s Budget 2024 be? That’s likely to be a major topic of conversation in coffee-shops and near corporate water coolers.
I have several wishes. Anwar should put in place the following measures.
Refrain from allocating enormous sums for religious purposes. Leave funding to the charitable hearts of the followers of the various faiths. This should be the way forward to enhance, strengthen and internalise spirituality among the followers of the various religions as they take ownership of their beliefs.
Allocate meaningful sums as rewards to whistleblowers for successfully joining in the battle against endemic corruption in the country. This should drive fear down the spine of every corrupt person.
Provide tax incentives for businesses that use some of their profits to upskill their workers, come up with innovative products and services, and keep prices down by not profiteering. Such incentives would go a long way in reviving our sagging economy.
Impose effective, creative and bold taxation measures on highly profitable private healthcare outfits. Formulate reform-driven tax policies for lucrative pharmaceutical firms. Private healthcare cannot be deemed a sunrise industry by any stretch of the imagination.
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Reform the housing sector. Housing should no longer be seen as an economic endeavour but as part of a social development agenda. This calls for a taxation formula to make one house per couple or one house per single person above 35 the norm. Investing in properties to rent out at ever-escalating rates is doing more harm than good.
Provide special incentives to developers who are more involved in the provision of social housing.
Allocate funds to upgrade run-down schools. Ensure that the goal of becoming a progressive nation is not impeded by dilapidated schools. Revise teachers’ salaries and perks to nurture and encourage exemplary educators.
Introduce wiser taxation policies for the export of local crops and husbandry produce. The years ahead of us are likely to be wrought with unprecedented food chain disruptions and scarcities. So stop denying this geopolitical scenario that is fast unfolding. We need a sustainable framework for the long haul and it should begin with this tax consideration.
Introduce tax reliefs and subsidies for local, small-scale garden farming. Let’s draw the money from the revised taxes on imported luxury goods, exotic farm products and processed produce. This will encourage the flourishing of fresh local produce that is as good if not better than foreign vegetables, fruits and meat – both preserved and processed.
The taxation revisions must decisively address the pursuit of humongous profits raked in by importers and exporters at the expense of the people’s wellbeing, health and affordability.
Introduce a taxation formula that will make it less viable to keep importing lowly paid workers. These workers are often easily exploited and abused by rent-seekers and corrupt individuals in positions of influence and power.
As our population keeps growing, we will have more workers to meet growing demands. But a more structured policy and mindset is needed for reforms to happen. Begin this process with a taxation system that punishes the greedy and even sinful exploitation of workers.
Finally, make recycling a meaningful success story by abandoning expensive campaign mantras that do nothing. Instead, introduce actual workable tax prescriptions for the masses and those in industry. A society that manages its waste responsibly will save and build a stronger nation.
Hopefully, these honest wishes make sense. Surely there are enough experts in the country with a clear head to translate, fine-tune and perfect some of these hopes into a viable Budget 2024.