KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 ― The government has been telling Malaysians to brace for a painful Budget, but the middle class ― from Penang to Kuala Lumpur ― say that they are already struggling.
These Malaysians from the lower- to upper-middle income classes want income tax, road tax, and the sales and services tax (SST) lowered in the upcoming Budget 2019. Predictably, they also want additional tax reliefs, excluding incentives and bonuses from income tax.
Some are also asking for additional healthcare spending and government medical cards, as well as improvements in the education system, more government scholarships for postgraduate studies and increased funding in science and technology research.
Malay Mail interviewed 35 Malaysians from various professions and backgrounds in the capital city, Penang, and Ipoh on what they want the Pakatan Harapan government to focus on in its maiden Budget.
This is what some of them have to say:
Too expensive to live
R. Ramesh, 27, content outreach specialist, Ipoh
“The cost of public transportation and toll prices have not seen a reduction. Something also needs to be done about the property market prices are not dropping. I've seen condos where 70 per cent is not occupied and the prices are the same. Why are we protecting the elite who own multiple properties?”
Mohd Khafiruddin Faizan, 36, civil servant, Penang
“Cost of living is too high. My salary is only RM2,500, barely enough to cover costs. It is the prices of things and food that need to be reduced. Otherwise, we can’t survive. There is also a need to review allowances for civil servants. Some are too low, not even sufficient to pay bills.”
Firdaus Mohamad Hadzri, 28, freelance photographer, Penang
“Groceries and toiletries are too expensive... need to be reduced, especially for youths who just started work. We don’t have much disposable income. We need a better public transport system, maybe a special system for Malaysians, using MyKad to pay for bus fare at a special rate. A lot of foreigners take buses too, so citizens should be given special rates.”
Hard to find jobs
Liyana Khalid, 25, banker, Kuala Lumpur
“In the government Budget, can they provide something for those who just graduated from university? Nowadays the younger generation face problems getting a job, so why can't we just build a platform for fresh graduates to start a career?”
Nina Saromin, 26, freelance designer, Kuala Lumpur
“I graduated from uni last year and can't get full time work. I can't even get part-time work too, so it is very tough. We (university graduates) applied to the government for jobs that are open to degree holders, but there are still those who didn't get. Like my friends, many did not get.”
Shazlin Saibon, 24, part-time worker, Penang
“It is not easy to look for a full-time job and even harder to get a government job. I just hope there is an economic package for fresh graduates so that we can get jobs to survive. (I’m) still living with parents.”
Can’t afford to buy a home
Akil Yunus, 29, Master’s graduate, Kuala Lumpur
“What is really important to me right now is more affordable housing. I don't know how affordable it can get because they always keep dropping the word ‘affordable housing’, but it's never really affordable. Me and my wife can't even afford what the middle class can.”
Josephine Jalleh, 31, communications manager, Penang
“Should look into affordable housing, below RM400,000. A lot of people can’t afford to buy a house. If I need to buy, I have to jointly purchase with another person.”
M. Sheila, 55, recruitment agency worker, Kuala Lumpur
“They should bring the house prices down. Like now it's more than RM500,000, RM1 million, if you are coming to KL. Those are the prices. RM300,000 is good enough, good location, access to public transport.”
Reduce taxes, please
Hafizee Arop, 32, private sector worker, Ipoh
“I also hope the government will consider lowering personal income tax to put more money into people's pockets. The introduction of SST has not seen the price of items reducing. Hence I hope with a reduction in personal income tax, I will have more cash in hand.”
Ms AY, 43, banker, Kuala Lumpur
“Government should reduce income tax. Tax relief used to be separated; it should continue to be split. But now, they are putting everything together as a lump sum for tax relief. So why are they making it so difficult? Despite earning a five-figure income, what is the government doing for us? Nothing much. We are paying taxes, but the thing is, we are not getting the benefits that we are supposed to get. We are one of the persons who are actually contributing to the nation, but we don't get anything.”
Ms YP Woo, 42, hawker, Ipoh
“I hope the government will reduce the SST as despite promises that prices of things will be lower with the introduction of SST, hawkers like me are not feeling it. For example, the plastic containers that I use to pack food stuff were previously sold to me by a middleman at 50 sen each. However after the introduction of SST, I am now paying 60 sen for each container. They claim they had to increase the price as they got the items at a higher price from manufacturers.”
* Ida Lim, Yiswaree Palansamy, Kenneth Tee, Loghun Kumaran, and John Bunyan contributed to the story.