Friday September 28, 2012
Urban group’s concerns to be focus of PM’s speech
KUALA LUMPUR: Budget 2013 is expected to address the middle-income trap, in which more than 50% of the urban population are stuck.
From housing to transport, middle class Malaysians have been left unassisted as they grapple with the high cost of living in the city, and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is certain to look into rectifying the situation.
While the Budget is likely to be “mildly expansionary but fiscally responsible”, officials said the Prime Minister wanted it to look beyond the GDP of the nation and the revenue growth of the Government.
“Affordable housing, public transport, and middle-class concerns have been among the catch phrases at the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) in the past few weeks,” said an official familiar with the speech that Najib as Finance Minister will deliver in Parliament today.
A senior aide said: “The rich can take care of themselves while the poor have always gotten help from the Government. It is now time to look into middle-class concerns.”
According to officials who have been working on the Budget, Najib has widened the security net for people living in urban centres to include households with income as high as RM10,000.
“The distressed urban middle class now comprises households earning between RM5,000 and RM10,000,” one officials said.
When Najib tabled his first Budget in 2009, he talked of urban households with income of RM3,000 and below as living on the poverty line.
“The Prime Minister now recognises that even those whose joint income amounts to RM10,000 are not free of financial problems.”
Sources said affordable housing to be built by the government agency PR1MA would be the backbone of Najib’s plan to ease the burden of the middle class.
“He wants to help all groups to face the rising cost of living and will not concentrate on just pushing for economic growth,” an official said.
“He will even look at things like the Happiness Index and whether what is being proposed will make the people’s life better.”
To improve the quality of life and do well in the Happiness Index, Budget 2013 will give much attention to fighting crime and pollution, along with upgrading public transport, the sources said.
“In public transport, some form of subsidised travel should be made available for certain segments of society,” a senior aide said.
Although national polls are round the corner, people should not call this an election budget, the aide stressed, because “the revenue, expenditure and other figures are quite consistent with what has been happening in the past few years.”