KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has presented a bag of goodies to the rakyat in his last budget as Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
However, smokers and drinkers will be hit hard by a 20% hike in import and excise duties on cigarette and tobacco products and 10% on liquor.
Among the goodies are:
In addition, Felda settlers stand to benefit in a big way through its impending listing on the KL Stock Exchange.
“Felda settlers will have the opportunity to hold equity in the listed company as members of the co-operative and as settlers,” Dr Mahathir said in his 93-page budget speech delivered in Parliament yesterday.
The education sector continued to be given priority, with RM20.2bil or a quarter of the operating expenditure in 2004.
Budget 2004, with its continuing focus on greater private sector participation, will have five broad strategies:
Dr Mahathir stressed that Malaysia must redouble its efforts to become a global trader and one strategic measure was to corporatise the Malaysian Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) to include the private sector in aggressive export promotions.
Expatriates are also to be roped in for such promotions.
For Malaysians who have been delaying their purchase of cars in anticipation of lower prices in the Asean Free Trade Area scheme, Dr Mahathir said excise duties would be levied on imported vehicles when import duties are reduced on Jan 1 next year.
“Therefore, consumers are encouraged to purchase cars now for themselves and their families,” he said.
To achieve its aim of balancing the Budget, the government deficit has been projected at 3.3% of gross domestic product compared with 5.4% in Budget 2003.
In line with fiscal consolidation, government expenditure is tagged at RM112.5bil (1.6% lower than that in the last Budget) against an estimated revenue of RM95.6bil.
The tourism and information technology sectors continue to be major beneficiaries.
Dr Mahathir also announced that Telekom would be reducing Internet access charges and to ensure wider and more efficient Internet services, Jaring would be merged with TMNet.
On tourism, he said the Malaysian Tourism Board would be restructured and promotional efforts intensified to focus more on regional, West Asian and new markets.
Regarding housing, Dr Mahathir said private housing developers would be given the choice of either implementing the construction of 30% of low-cost houses or allowing SPNB to undertake the construction with developers paying a contribution in return.
On agriculture, Dr Mahahir said large-scale mixed farming would be promoted.
He said that supported by robust domestic activities and recovery in external economies, the Malaysian economy was expected to achieve a growth rate of 5.5% to 6% next year.