PENANGITES are hopeful that the Pakatan Harapan government would deliver a host of goodies in its first budget.
From public transport, tax relief, education to tourism, they expect better things to come although they have been told of a “painful but necessary” Budget 2019.
Marketing manager Johnny Goh said with Penang being known as a tourism hotspot, the federal government could set up a special fund to provide training for retirees to become tour guides.
He said the move could help address the shortage of licensed tour guides in the state.
“There is this six-month tour guide course which many retirees could take up and contribute to the state by serving as tour guides.
“They can become licensed guides upon completing the course. It helps them sustain a living.
“As long as they are still mentally alert and have interest in the history and heritage of Penang, why not?” he said, adding that Chinese-speaking tour guides are in demand here.
Business and management student Phaisarin Tang, 20, hopes the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) will come to fruition.
The student, who stays in Macallum Street Ghaut, said there was once when she spent 40 minutes in a public bus just to get to Komtar from her house.
She is hopeful that the Federal Government would allocate the state government certain funds to kick off the project.
“It’s frustrating. I could reach the place faster by walking.
“Which is why I hope the Light Rail Transit (LRT) will be implemented soon. I can plan my journey well, without having to worry about the traffic.
“I am not saying the service of public buses is bad. It’s just that sometimes, there could be unforeseen happenings on the road which are beyond our control, resulting in buses not reaching their intended destination on time.
“With LRT, I hope there will be feeder buses at certain stations to get us to around town area,” she said.
Undergraduate Nabila Hasni and her friends said the amount of PTPTN loan should also take into consideration the extra cost, mainly the reading materials and meal expenses.
“The PTPTN loan that we get is only sufficient to pay for our study fees. We can barely survive as we need to buy study materials and eat proper meals.
“Hopefully the government can look into this,” said the 22-year-old student who is doing her internship.
Business owner Sanderashegar Mamu said he won’t expect much from the budget 2019 as he understood that the Federal Government was still in heavy debt.
“Let the government settle the debt first. Only then the rakyat can request for what they want,” he said.
He added that his business was not affected as the price of raw materials were almost the same as before.
Academic staff Tan Peng Hooi, 50, said the tax relief for Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contribution and life insurance, which is currently limited to RM6,000, should be increased to RM10,000.
“It is too low at the moment and it is not helping. By increasing the quantum, it will encourage more people to save as part of their retirement plan,” he said.
College principal Dr Chiang Geok Lian said students in tertiary institutions should be given a full loan from the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) to pay for their studies.
She said she was told that students only received PTPTN loan amount which was only enough to cover 75% of their study fees.
“Maybe the government should consider giving them the loan amount that will suffice to pay for the school fees.
“Students have to fork out money from their own pocket to pay the balance.
“The economy is not so good and the cost of living is so high.
“It should be reverted to a 100% loan amount so that it can help to lessen the burden of those who have children taking up tertiary education,” she said.
Accounting and Finance student Tan Jun Xun, 21, said he hoped the Federal Government would consider ‘subsidising’ students who use the Penang ferry service daily with a flat monthly rate.
He said the ferry service was a daily mode of transport for many college and secondary school students who ply between the mainland and island.
Lecturer Nel Ng said children from the lower income bracket should not be left out in Budget 2019, especially when there were talks that the government would introduce e-textbooks next year.
“Maybe they should allocate a fund to subsidise the children from the lower income families in getting gadgets or devices.
“I believe every child should start from an equal footing,” she said, adding that the quantum of RM2,500 tax relief for subscription of newspapers, Internet, gym membership and purchase of smartphones should also be increased.
Grocery stall owner Chong Siew Yong, 58, hopes that the quantum for tax relief claims would be increased further.
She also hoped that the government would provide more low-cost houses so that the fresh graduates and newly wed couples could afford one.
“It will be great if we could have more of a rent-to-own programmes.
“The Federal Government should consider implementing higher cigarettes tax rather than turning more public spaces in non-smoking area,” she said.