Budget 2024: Reactions from the banking sector

Sulaiman: Crucially, the target to narrow the budget deficit from 5% to 4.3% of the GDP is indeed a welcome step in terms of enhancing the nation’s financial health

Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir, group CEO, AMMB Holdings Bhd

STRIKING a balance between addressing immediate economic challenges and laying the groundwork for sustainable growth, the 2024 National Budget reflects the government’s commitment to strengthening the nation's socioeconomic development and driving long-term resilience and prosperity.

Crucially, the target to narrow the budget deficit from 5% to 4.3% of the GDP is indeed a welcome step in terms of enhancing the nation’s financial health.

Recognising the pivotal role of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in economic growth, the allocation of RM44bil which will go towards loans and credit guarantees for SMEs is set to further empower and enhance their competitiveness.

With RM2.4bil earmarked for micro-entrepreneurs and small traders through agencies such as Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), Bank Simpanan Nasional and TEKUN, this is expected to spur greater opportunities and ease the financial burden of SMEs, which is certainly timely amid the current economic volatility.

Supporting this, the allocation of additional funds of up to RM25mil in matching grants with financial institutions under the existing i-TEKAD social finance programme is set to benefit more entrepreneurs.

Alongside this, the RM900mil loan funds available under BNM will unlock potential for SMEs to move up the global value chain and increase productivity through automation and digitalisation.

Furthermore, the government’s focus on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles reflects a forward-looking approach that integrates sustainability into economic policies. The allocation of RM2bil for the National Energy Transition Roadmap charts a strategic course towards a more sustainable future for Malaysia.

This is complemented by financing funds of RM200bil by financial institutions, providing further impetus for industries to transition towards a low-carbon economy.

Indeed, Budget 2024 is exceptionally people-centric and timely.

Datuk Khairussaleh Ramli, group president and chief executive officer, Malayan Banking Bhd, & chairman, The Association of Banks in Malaysia

BUDGET 2024 tabled by the Prime Minister is comprehensive and inclusive, with emphasis on sustainable economic growth and being pro-Rakyat, in support of the Madani Economy, and the various policies and roadmap announced recently. We applaud the reinforced commitment towards fiscal discipline with a target of reducing fiscal deficit to 4.3% next year.

The budget also aims to navigate the country through a new economic direction by alleviating cost of living, creating jobs, boosting global competitiveness and supporting a conducive investment climate. The intent to further support the underserved and unserved sustainably is clear, and we welcome the proposed increase in tax exempt spend to 35% to encourage greater social impact programmes.

The allocation of an additional RM10mil to enhance the effectiveness of the National Scam Response Centre (NSRC) is highly important. The banking industry is committed to working closely with Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) on the setting up of a national fraud portal by mid-2024, where key data collected can be used to detect patterns and connections between the accounts used by scammer.

The initiative to develop the National Digital Identity will spur digital economic activities in the country and will certainly boost financial transactions and payment activities, apart from promoting greater efficiency and enhanced security for digital transactions. Banks are committed to participating actively in this initiative.

The continued emphasis on Islamic finance in Budget 2024 will further Malaysia’s competitiveness in the global halal market and its capabilities to provide value based Islamic banking solutions. We also appreciate the tax incentives for Islamic Securities Buying and Selling and for Labuan entities undertaking Islamic finance in enhancing the breadth and depth of our Islamic finance solutions.

In addressing climate resiliency, the Budget remains steadfast in prioritising renewable energy, green technologies, and conservation efforts that support sustainable economic growth while ensuring a liveable environment for future generations.

The realisation of the NETR is certainly being prioritised with the government and financial institutions coming together to provide financing of some RM200bil to businesses as we continue Malaysia’s push towards a just transition towards a net-zero economy.

We also welcome the allocation of RM2 billion National Energy Transition Facility fund to facilitate this and the possible issuance of RM1 billion biodiversity sukuk towards carbon credits.

Helping the MSMEs continues to be emphasised with financing and guarantee schemes to the tune of RM44 billion.

Meanwhile, Maybank will continue to play its part in supporting Budget 2024, across various economic activities, and across all segments of the population

Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek, managing director/ chief executive officer, Public Bank Bhd

WHILE Budget 2024 will see a total expenditure bill of RM393.8bil, the government’s resolve on continuing to champion fiscal prudence is to be applauded. Balancing the diverse needs of all can be a tall order.

The government’s success in achieving this with Budget 2024 should therefore be commended. Issues like high living costs, implementation of socio-economic measures to uplift the poor and low-income groups, empowerment of small-scale businesses, economic reforms, promotion of investments, enhancement of food security, affordable housing, improvement of basic public infrastructure and essential public services were addressed, amongst many others.

For those in need, various social assistance frameworks have been strengthened through wealth re-allocation from subsidy rationalisations.

With an estimated 20% of the M40 group having fallen into the B40 category due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative that social safety nets be widened.

On this note, allocation to the Sumbangan Tunai Rahmah (STR) initiative will be increased to RM10bil from RM8bil, benefitting nine million recipients. For 2024, a total of RM58.1bil will be set aside for the purpose of financing various aids to the Rakyat, encompassing subsidies, incentives and financial aid.

We welcome the continued support extended to the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). RM1.5bil will be set aside by government-linked corporations (GLCs) and government-linked investment corporations (GLICs) to encourage start-ups including bumiputera MSMEs to venture into high growth high value industries.

RM100mil in the form of grants to support digitalization and RM900mil in financing support provided by Bank Negara Malaysia to encourage MSMEs to automate and digitalise will strengthen resilience of our SMEs, future-proofing our economy in the process.

Climate-related issues will be at the forefront of many decisions in the years ahead. Studies have shown Malaysia to be amongst the most vulnerable regions in Southeast Asia to the effects of climate change. Inaction is no longer an option.

The government’s pioneering plan for a RM1bil biodiversity-based Sukuk is a welcome move. The Public Bank Group is well underway in embarking on sustainability-based initiatives, reducing carbon emissions from our operations and undertaking responsible lending practices, amongst others.

Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad, group chief executive officer, CIMB Group

WE are pleased to see the Malaysian government’s continued focus on driving sustainable economic growth through the Malaysian 2024 Federal Budget, the Second MADANI Budget.

The Budget forms a strong foundation towards achieving Malaysia’s long-term goals of safeguarding the Rakyat’s wellbeing and strengthening the country’s business ecosystem within an increasingly volatile global macro-economic environment.

In accelerating economic growth, we are encouraged to see measures to support micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as well as supporting the start-up ecosystem. These include, among others, RM2.2bil in total funding support for MSMEs to automate business processes, digitalise their operations, and increase their international footprint.

In addition, we laud the focus on environmental sustainability and food security with specific allocation for MSMEs that operate within these two crucial areas. This will help support their growth and resilience, and subsequently futureproof the socioeconomic wellbeing of all Malaysians.

As a leading Islamic finance player, CIMB also supports the government’s focus on driving more active market participation as well as equitable distribution of wealth among the Rakyat through value-based intermediation (VBI).

With the ongoing efforts by the financial industry to combat scams, we welcome the Government’s continued commitment to combat financial scams by doubling the allocation to the National Scam Response Centre (NSRC) to RM20mil and the establishment of the National Fraud Portal (NFP) that will expedite the process of freezing and repatriation of funds.

CIMB remains committed to undertaking all necessary measures to further support and strengthen banking security and work together with the relevant authorities and our customers to combat scams collectively.

Overall, the announced budget suitably balanced fiscal responsibility with supporting growth and meeting Rakyat’s needs.

Accordingly, CIMB is committed to collaborate with stakeholders across the private and public sectors and civil society in supporting the ambitions set out in the Malaysia MADANI Budget 2024 to create an inclusive and resilient economy that will help all Malaysians to thrive in an ever-challenging landscape.

Kevin Lam, group managing director/ chief executive officer, Hong Leong Bank Bhd

WE are very encouraged to see the follow-through announcement of additional details and actionable plans outlined in the Belanjawan 2024, covering not only the welfare of the Rakyat, but also enhancing the micro, small and medium enterprises ecosystem, strengthening the Islamic Banking positioning, combating financial scam and fraud incidences and providing welcoming policies to attract FDIs.

This could serve as a solid foundation to propel Malaysia towards meeting the New Industrial Master Plan 3 and the mid-term review of the 12th Malaysia Plan, contributing significantly to the long-term sustainability of the Malaysian economy.

As a community bank, we are also pleased to see the government’s dedicated commitment to fortify the SME ecosystem through an array of ongoing tax and non-tax incentives, coupled with financing grants that are poised to significantly bolster the competitiveness of SMEs within the global value chain.

This will pave the way towards doubling the share of export-oriented SMEs to 25% of vendor development by 2030, and lifting the share of domestic value added in manufacturing to 65% by the same timeframe. We believe this will strengthen the Malaysian economy in general as SMEs account for about 37% of Malaysia's GDP and offer about two-thirds of employment.

The government’s steadfast sustainability-related efforts, especially its commitment towards net zero by targeting to reduce CHG emission intensity to 45% by 2030 will set the tone for the nation as a whole.

We are pleased to see the extension of RM2,500 personal income tax exemption for those who own electric vehicle charging facilities for up to four years, and the tax exemption for those who rent electric vehicles extended for two years. HLB will continue to support the sustainability journey of the nation through our robust green financing offerings.

Despite the challenging external environment, we are cautiously optimistic that the expansionary budget and steady projected growth trajectory of 4-5% for 2024 would provide the much-needed backdrop for businesses including SMEs to grow, more so with quick and effective implementation of budget measures and anticipated revival in investor confidence.

Mohd Rashid Mohamad, group managing director/group chief executive officer, RHB Banking Group

WE commend the expansionary focus of Budget 2024, which promises essential support for strengthening the economy, enhancing business competitiveness, elevating the Rakyat’s living standards, and maintaining fiscal prudence. This commitment aligns well with the improving global economic momentum expected in the coming year.

The government's steadfast dedication in striking a balance between economic development and fiscal sustainability is noteworthy. This approach will ensure that the nation will prosper while safeguarding financial stability.

The goal of transforming the nation into an Islamic investment hub is a commendable move as it will attract investments to stimulate economic growth and is very well aligned with the theme of "Economic Reformation, People Empowerment".

We will support the government aspirations under the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) towards net carbon zero emissions by 2050 and will continue to play a significant role in elevating the nation's economic growth and development, particularly the growth of SMEs, and driving financial inclusivity among the underserved segments by providing access to financial services that are digital secure and nimble.

Datuk Wan Razly Abdullah, president and group chief executive officer, Affin Bank Bhd

WE view the National Budget 2024 as expansionary and prudent, incorporating measures to support consumer spending and offer a series of measures to assist vulnerable household groups, alongside substantial allocation for development expenditure as well as ongoing people-centric infrastructure projects.

Budget 2024 also focuses on improving the people’s wellbeing through strategies that generate growth for the country’s prosperity. We believe that the budget is prudent as the Federal Government seeks to navigate a balance between re-establishing fiscal stability and promoting economic development.

Despite economic uncertainties in both advanced and emerging economies, along with volatile movements in energy and commodity prices, the Malaysian economy remains fundamentally strong.

The government expects the country’s underlying real GDP growth to steadily expand between 4.0-5.0% in 2024, surpassing the estimated 4.0% for 2023. The government also demonstrated its commitment in fiscal reform, with efforts and measures to improve its deficit target to -4.3% of GDP in 2024 from 5% of GDP in 2023.

We welcome the RM350mil allocation by the government for the promotion and marketing of our tourism industry, including the Visit Malaysia 2026. Amongst other measures on tourism is the relaxation of Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme conditions. The growth of our tourism industry will in turn spur more demand for our local goods and services.

We also support the government’s initiative to facilitate the growth and development of micro-SMEs and SMEs through loan and financing facilities. Tax exemption for those involved in Islamic Securities Selling and Buying (ISSB) must also be lauded. This will encourage more active involvement in the Islamic finance sector, promoting its growth and development.

These initiatives collectively contribute to a more vibrant and inclusive economic landscape, fostering financial stability and empowering businesses.

Ng Wei Wei, chief executive officer, UOB Malaysia

BUDGET 2024 is a pro-growth budget that strikes a fine balance between ensuring sufficient support for the domestic economy amid continued external challenges, while staying committed to fiscal prudence and enhancing the people’s well-being.

The measures announced such as the reinvestment incentives for high-value activities under the New Industrial Master Plan 2030, tax incentives for Global Services Hub, expansion of green technology tax incentives, and tax deductions for Voluntary Carbon Market will help strengthen the economy and pave the way for macro stability in the medium to long term.

We welcome the measures to improve Malaysia's competitiveness and ease the cost of doing business, which will spur high-impact investments in the targeted sectors. These will help elevate foreign direct investments (FDI), broaden domestic linkages, spur industrial development and reinforce Malaysia's diversified economic structure. As a regional bank with a strong presence in ASEAN, UOB will continue to leverage our connectivity to facilitate more FDI to support Malaysia’s economic growth.

As a key proponent of the sustainability agenda, we are heartened by the measures announced in the Budget 2024 which reinforce the Government’s strong commitment to net zero. The RM2bil funds under the Dana Mudah Cara Peralihan Tenaga Negara, additional tax cuts of up to RM300,000 for Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) expenses relating to the development of carbon projects are positive moves to build a green economy for a sustainable future.

Further efforts to boost development of electric vehicles (EV) and installation of solar panels in the budget is also in line with UOB’s focus to encourage low-carbon lifestyles.

Apart from green measures, the incentives such as the RM20bil funds by SJPP to guarantee SME loans particularly those in the field of green economy, technology and halal will ensure the competitiveness of SMEs, the backbone of our economy.

Mak Joon Nien, chief executive officer, Standard Chartered Malaysia

WE commend the government for its clear intent to bolster the fiscal situation via the implementation of targeted subsidies and increased revenue measures; aside from ensuring that they only benefit deserving groups, the channelling of part of the savings from the subsidies to the Rahmah Cash Aid will further ease the burdens of the B40 segment.

The lower fiscal deficit, achieved via both revenue and subsidy spending measures, will help lay the ground for a more sustainable fiscal future.

We believe that tax reformation measures such as raising the Sales & Service Tax to 8%, with exception of the F&B and telecommunications industry, as well as introducing the Luxury Goods Tax, will positively contribute to Malaysia’s revenue efficiently and effectively.

As a facilitator of trade, we are fully supportive of the decision to prioritise future investments in high growth high value sectors via giving incentives on a tiering basis. As the amount of incentives awarded is based on the commitment that companies carry out, it will spur companies to stimulate the economy via investments and subsequently, create a new cluster economy.

With sustainability being core to our values, we laud the government’s initiatives tied to the Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), in which RM2bil has been allocated for a seed fund under the National Energy Transition Facility, as well as the efforts to improve the implementation of the Corporate Green Power Programme to achieve the country’s 70% renewable energy capacity target by 2050.

We welcome the Government’s RM44bil for loans and financing guarantees in various initiatives and programmes for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the priority on boosting competitiveness of the business community and strengthen the industry through infrastructure improvements, boosting productivity and the use of digitisation and technology in business.

As a bank that is at the forefront of digital banking, we support the government's commitment in moving Malaysia towards a digital economy via the allocations of RM900mil to encourage SMEs to increase business productivity through automation and digitisation, among other initiatives. This will have a lasting and positive impact on the financial services industry, and we take pride in walking side by side with the government on its digital initiatives.

Tan Chor Sen, chief executive officer, OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd

THE move to build a better Malaysia by positioning the country as a leader in the Southeast Asian economy by supporting start-ups and making Kuala Lumpur a digital industrial hub is commendable. The efforts will go a long way toward transforming the nation from a labour-oriented to an innovation-led economy.

Being part of a financial institution with strong reach in the ASEAN-Greater China region, we can see the wisdom behind the larger picture of fostering greater economic integration with our neighbouring countries, nurturing more competitive companies to penetrate the ASEAN market, and facilitating trading activities.

The Budget also ensures that the nation’s economic backbone – MSMEs – continues to grow through the RM44 billion allocation in loans and guarantees, including the grants for digitalisation.

The move to improve efforts to encourage adoption of sustainable practices such as installing solar panels is on the right track and OCBC Bank will lend its utmost support to this. And we are excited about the government’s proposal to extend support and tax benefits to those involved in Sustainable & Responsible Investments (SRI).

Ultimately, the National Budget is one for the rakyat and does well to make good the unity government’s realigned 12th Malaysia Plan inclusive of the National Energy Transition Roadmap, New Industrial Master Plan 2030 and the Madani Economy Framework which will serve to achieve sustainable development and reinvigorate the economy.

Datuk Dominic Silva, chief executive officer, MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd

THE Budget 2024 can be seen as the starting point for realising the aspirations of Ekonomi Madani. It supports the various initiatives under the Ekonomi Madani umbrella such as the New Industrial Master Plan 2030, National Energy Transition Roadmap and 12 Malaysia Plan Mid Term Review.

The Budget announcement includes several significant measures for the upcoming fiscal year and is inclusive, comprehensive, and forward-looking.

It represents a balanced approach to fiscal management, removes overlaps and redundancies between institutions, buttresses key economic sectors without losing focus on environmental factors, positions the country to capitalise on emerging economic trends, while prioritising the welfare and development of the nation overall.

It reflects a commitment to restructure the economy for a more inclusive, orderly, and sustainable growth.

The focus on empowering the SME segment is commendable, as these segments form the backbone of the economy. Providing them with the necessary support not only fosters economic growth and stability but provides the transformative journey the country needs.

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