CME: Budget 2023 shifts the burden of fiscal responsibility on firms and individuals

SUNDAY, 26 February 2023: The Center for Market Education (CME) is not impressed with the freshly re-tabled budget 2023, the first big step for the coalition government run by Anwar Ibrahim. «It seems to us that it lacks a comprehensive strategy for a holistic tax reform, it does not introduce any attempt to rationalize government expenditures, while the burden of reducing debt is shifted on firms and individuals with new and questionable taxes», observed Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of CME.

According to the Center for Market Education, the most significant points of the budget are:

  • The incentives for SMEs;
  • The idea of a new industrial plan, aiming at rebuilding Malaysia’s manufacturing base;
  • The will to reconsider the different investment schemes, which are outdated and need rationalization;
  • The intention of reviewing and reforming government bodies and government-linked companies (GLCs).

These last three points, however, will need to be judged at the implementation moment, to see if the way in which they are developed will be consistent with the desired targets.

«The most disappointing part, instead, is the fiscal one», added Dr Ferlito, explaining that slogans like “tax the rich” or “tax the luxury goods” may be good to gain political consensus but are unlikely to produce any real benefit for the country, quite the contrary. The same goes with the one-time RM 500 injection on the EPF account for a certain group of individuals: while being an overall cost for the government, it does not produce any real benefit for the people. “A measure with a populist flavour”, Carmelo added.

According to the Center for Market Education, more had to be done in terms of fiscal reform and to rationalize government expenditures:

  1. The increase in taxation for incomes between RM 100,000 and RM 1,000,000 is unlikely to produce any real effect, but it launches the signal that the government expects from a certain group of individuals to contribute to increased revenues with the government itself doing nothing to cut expenditures;
  2. The proposal of a Capital Gain Tax (CGT), while agreeable in principle and eventually to be applied at the generality of firms, comes at the wrong moment, when we are about to face an economic slowdown and we struggle to attract investments in the competitive race with neighbours such as Indonesia and Vietnam;
  3. The taxing of luxury goods is demagogic and violate the principle of horizontal equity, essential to a truly equitable tax system;
  4. No true effort is made to extend the tax base with better enforcement or effective measures such as the Good and Service Tax (GST);
  5. Nothing is done on targeted subsidies: there has been a lot of talking on this point, but nothing is really tried; rather, the amount of subsidies and handouts increases, showing that the government has no intention to move toward fiscal discipline and balanced budgets, shifting the burden of reducing debt to firms and individuals.
  6. Taxation on vaping will incentivize the black market and will not help in the direction of a rational harm reduction strategy, which requires an adequate legislative framework, not just taxation.

«There were high expectations on Anwar’s first budget, but, as we stated earlier, they needed to be toned down. The budget showed we were right. We wish to stress that, without government fiscal discipline, the country is unlikely to make a move in the direction of a sustainable growth path; furthermore, new “anti-rich” or “anti-business” taxes will only undermine the local investment ecosystem», conclude Dr Ferlito.

For media enquiries: 

  1. Center for Market Education:

About CME: The Center for Market Education (CME) is a boutique think-tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As an academic and educational institution, CME aims to promote a more pluralistic and multidisciplinary approach to economics and to spread the knowledge of a sounder economics, grounded in the understanding of market forces.

In order to do so, CME is not only involved in academic initiatives, but it organizes seminars, webinars and tailor-made economics classes for students, journalists, businesspeople and professionals who wish to better understand the relevance of economics for their daily lives and activities.

Economics matters and needs to be presented in a fashion in which the link with reality is clearly visible. In this sense, we look not only at theoretical economics but also at policy making, with an emphasis on the unintended consequences generated by political actions. Visit