SEREMBAN: Finance Ministry-owned government linked-companies (GLCs) are keen to lease or rent any available idle land to carry out modern farming, says Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan.
The Deputy Finance Minister said this was to ensure Malaysia was more food secure.
"GLCs under the Ministry of Finance Incorporated which have the financial means to develop idle land will be asked to undertake modern farming to ensure our food security," he told reporters after attending a dialogue on Budget 2023 with state government officials and other stakeholders on Wednesday (Feb 1).
Malaysia imports nearly 60% of its food needs. Its dependence on imports totals over RM50bil yearly.
In 2017, Malaysia ranked 40th on the Global Security Food Index (GSFI) as it relied heavily on imports for essential food products.
Now, Malaysia is in 41st position on the GSFI.
Separately, Ahmad said the government was also constantly looking at ways to increase income and reduce leakages.
"I was informed that we lost some RM5bil to cigarette smuggling activities. If we are able to check this through better enforcement, we may be able to get between RM3bil and RM4bil more income annually.
"So these are also issues that we need to address in order to increase the country's income," he said.
Citing another example, he said the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) has also adopted a friendlier approach to encourage more taxpayers to come forward to pay their dues.
"Last year, the IRB managed to collect higher taxes.
"Rather than going after or simply penalising, the IRB assists eligible taxpayers to pay their dues and this has helped to increase collection," he said.
Through this approach, Ahmad said the IRB hoped to increase the number of taxpayers.
At present, there are some three million individuals and 400,000 companies which pay taxes.
"If we can get more companies to come forward and pay their taxes, this will surely help to increase the government's income," he said.
Asked on the issues raised during the dialogue, Ahmad said these included allocations for maintenance of buildings, dams, federal roads, housing for second generation Felda settlers and affordable housing.
The state officials, he said, had also raised concerns over the electricity tariff for industries and ways to secure quality investments.
"They also touched on the need for a highway linking Seremban, Kuala Pilah and Jempol.
"We have taken note of these to be considered under Budget 2023 on Feb 24," he said.
Ahmad said they welcomed suggestions from the public and these could be forwarded to the ministry's website at www.mof.gov.my by Feb 10.