PETALING JAYA: As Malaysians ring in the new year, 2019 will see a set of at least 15 policies being rolled out.
They cover a variety of areas from health to workers’ welfare to transportation and social security nets.
Starting today, smokers must stand three metres away from all eateries and restaurants before lighting up their cigarettes.
Malaysians nationwide will also enjoy a streamlined minimum wage of RM1,100 starting this month.
Making a comeback starting the first week of January is the weekly managed float system for the price of RON95 petrol, which was formerly utilised by the Barisan Nasional administration.
The Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) payout, formerly known as BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid) and also introduced by Barisan, will be made before the end of January.
Software engineer Tan En Yi, 34, said he was looking forward to the smoking ban at eateries being implemented today.
“This is a good policy and should have been introduced a long time ago but I’m glad that it’s in place now,” said Tan, who is also a non-smoker.
“One thing that I’m not looking forward to is the weekly float system for RON95.”
His views were echoed by Zainuddin Mohd Sayuti, 60, who supported the smoking ban as it prioritises public health.
“I’m a smoker but I support this new policy. Second-hand smoke is dangerous to the public,” he said.
In terms of what he wants to see in 2019, Zainuddin hopes for social media platforms to be regulated by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.
“This is because platforms such as WhatsApp have been used to fan racial tensions through the spread of negative viral messages.
“I hope something can be done,” he said.
In the same vein, software engineer Loo Wai Min, 34, also wants to see better racial harmony in 2019.
He said racially charged events such as the anti-Icerd (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) rally on Dec 8 painted a picture of disunity among Malaysians.
Starting today, the B40 income bracket group will receive free health insurance and takaful protection under the National B40 Protection scheme.
The electricity rebate has also been doubled to RM40 each for 185,000 poor and hardcore poor households in the e-Kasih system.
But starting April 1, sweet-toothed Malaysians will be paying more for sugary drinks as the soda tax is set to be implemented.
Lorry driver Harun Abdul Rahman, 48, however, is worried about the cost of living going up.
“I’m worried about the weekly float system for petrol and also the new soda tax. They will drive up expenses.
“The prices of things keep going up but my wage stays the same so I’m not looking forward to those changes,” said the father of four.
On a more positive side, travellers are set to take more cost-efficient journeys as toll hikes are frozen for 21 highways and a RM100 monthly pass for unlimited trips on RapidKL rail or bus services is introduced.
There will also be no motorcycle toll on the First and Second Penang Bridge and the Second Link in Johor, saving motorcyclists RM1.40 and RM1.70 for the First and Second bridges in Penang and RM1.10 toll on the Malaysian side of the Second Link.
There is also a toll hike freeze for buses on eight separate highways.
For businesses, there will be Sales and Service Tax (SST) exemptions for specific business-to-business services and a credit system for sales tax deductions will also be introduced.
The government also plans to tax imported services, including online services, to ensure fair competition between local and overseas service providers.
The first six months of 2019 from January to June will also see first-time house buyers getting a 100% exemption in stamp duty payment for houses priced between RM300,001 and RM1mil.
The government has also agreed to exempt the real property gains tax (RPGT) to individual Malaysian citizens who dispose of their properties at a consideration price of RM200,000 and below.
The government will also exempt 34 stamp duties on all Perlindungan Tenang insurance products, an affordable insurance and takaful scheme, for two years.
Foreign workers, including expatriates, are also set to be covered under the Social Security Organisation (Socso).
A 33-year-old Sri Lankan expatriate who wished to be anonymous welcomed the move.
“All this while I’ve seen mostly policies affecting Malaysians but this is a good move for foreign workers like myself,” he said.