Combating COVID-19 and encouraging economic recovery were key aspects in the 2021 budget, however, infrastructure, the environment, health and research and development also received a boost.
By Zaidi Ismail
Helping people navigate the rough times as well as sustaining businesses took centre stage at the Malaysian budget 2021 on Friday, but there were a host of other initiatives designed to elevate the living standards of Malaysians.
Below are some examples of budget announcements you may have missed.
Rural connections boosted
A total of RM1.3 billion (AUD1.03 billion) is allocated to build trunk roads, provide water supply (RM632 million or AUD2.1 million) and electricity (RM250 million or AUD83.4 million).
Research and development
A RM400 million (AUD133 million) allocation for research and development will be channelled to universities and government agencies to ramp up Malaysia's endeavour to become a knowledge economy.
To support that announcement, tax incentives for non-resource-based R&D product commercialisation activities will be reintroduced and tax incentives for the commercialisation of R&D products by public research institutions will be extended to private higher education institutions.
A total of RM500 million (AUD166.8 million) has been allocated to build 14,000 homes for people on lower incomes, while another RM125 million is set aside to build low-cost flats for the urban poor.
Civil servants also get assistance, with RM310 million (AUD 103.4 million) earmarked for homebuilding.
The full stamp duty exemption for first time home buyers has been extended until 31 December 2025 and the limit on the exemption has been increased to properties valued at RM500,000 (AUD170,000 (from RM300,000),enabling homebuyers to save up to RM9000 (AUD3000) in stamp duty.
Encouraging healthier lifestyles
Malaysians have the highest incidences of hypertension, diabetes, lung cancer and other non-congenital diseases in South East Asia.
To foster a healthier lifestyle, a total of RM19 million (AUD6.3 million) has been allocated for sports development and RM103 million (AUD34.36 million) to build, maintain and upgrade sports facilities.
A total of RM55million (AUD18.5 million) has been allocated to further boost the development of hockey, rugby, badminton and women athletes.
The Health Ministry has been allocated RM24 million (AUD8million) to assist with mental health issues, such as depression, arising from the pandemic lockdown.
Assisting people with disabilities (OKU)
Allowances for the disabled were increased from RM250 to RM300 (AUD100). The allowance for those who are bedridden, suffering from chronic disease, will receive RM500 (AUD166) a month.
The rate for the Incentive Allowance for Disabled Workers will increase from RM400 to RM450.
Fishing industry receives a boost
Some 40,000 people working in the fishing industry will get an increase in their allowances to RM300 (AUD 100) from RM250 (AUD83).
Empowering female entrepreneurs
A total of RM95 million (AUD32 million) micro credit has been allocated to assist women especially those in rural areas to start a business.
Aid for indigenous peoples
For 2021, a total of RM158 million has been allocated for the indigenous people of Malaysia to assist them with living expenses, building or repairing houses, food and education and travel.
Rebate for the purchase of "green" refrigerators
A RM200 (AUD66) rebate will also be offered to buyers of "green" refrigerators and air conditioning units, as part of Malaysia's efforts to become a green nation. The appliances must be locally manufactured.
Cleaning up the rivers
Malaysian rivers continue to be polluted by illegal factories and irresponsible dumping. To combat this scourge, a total of RM50 million (AUD16 million) will be spent to clean up rivers, increase enforcement and erect observatory towers to clamp down on polluters.
Improving Malaysia’s digital capability
The government is taking additional steps to reduce the financial burden lower income Malaysians experience in accessing the internet.
In the first quarter of 2021, an estimated 8 million individuals in the B40 category will each be eligible for a telecommunications credit worth RM180 to help pay for internet subscription or buy new mobile phones. Telecommunication companies will also provide benefits to this group such as free data.
In addition, the government is allocating RM150 million to 100,000 businesses to encourage the adoption of e-commerce, which will be supplemented by the RM150 million Shop Malaysia Online initiative.
The eligibility for the SME Digitalization Grant Scheme and Automation Grant has been broadened to businesses that have been operating for at least six months and a further RM150 million has been injected into the scheme.
A one-off RM50 (AUD16.68) payment will be credited into the e-wallets of Malaysians between the ages of 18 and 20. This is to bolster a cashless society as Malaysia migrates to e-wallet transactions.
E-wallets have taken off significantly in the country, of which there are some 20 providers.
Supporting the unemployed
To assist Malaysians that have recently lost work due to COVID-19, the Budget proposes to increase the cap on the income tax exemption for compensation received on the loss of employment from RM10,000 to RM20,000 for 2020 and 2021.
The hiring incentive, now known as PenjanaKerjaya, has been enhanced and includes an increase in the incentive employers receive when hiring disabled, long-term unemployed and retrenched workers. The 20 per cent increase brings the total incentive an employer may be eligible for to 60 per cent of that employee’s monthly income.
The government and Government Linked Corporations will offer 50,000 job opportunities on a contract basis starting January 2021. The government will give priority to filling up positions such as nurses, medical attendants, social workers and temporary teachers.
Government loans will be provided to 24,000 trainees to pursue technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs in public and private skills training institutions.
The government will also provide training and placements for 8000 employees of airline companies in Malaysia.
Tax incentives for business
The government announced several business tax incentives in the Budget including:
- relaxing the conditions for the Principal Hub incentive and extending the incentive until 31 December 2022
- taxing the income of global trading centres at a concessionary 10 per cent rate for five years and renewable for another five years
- taxing non-resident individuals holding key positions in companies investing in new strategic industries at a flat 15 per cent for five years
- pharmaceutical manufacturers will be taxed at 0 to 10 per cent for 10 years and at 10 per cent for a subsequent ten years
- all tax incentives due to expire this year will be extended until 2022.
A comprehensive study of existing tax incentives is underway. The intention of the study is to provide a competitive, transparent and more attractive tax incentive framework.
For further information, visit the CPA Australia website.