WELCOME ADDRESS BY
YB TUAN LIM GUAN ENG
MINISTER OF FINANCE
BUDGET 2020 FOCUS GROUP
ENHANCING SOCIAL PROTECTION FOR VULNERABLE GROUPS
5 SEPTEMBER 2019 (THURSDAY)
Yang Amat Berhormat Dato' Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Family and Community Development
Yang Berbahagia Dato' Junaidah binti Kamarruddin
Secretary-General, Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development
Good afternoon and Salam Harapan
1. Welcome to the Ministry of Finance. I would like to express my appreciation to YAB Deputy Prime Minister for your presence here today, as well as to all of you for your participation in today’s dialogue session.
2. The Government will be tabling the 2020 Budget on 11 October 2019. In preparation for the Budget, the Ministry of Finance is conducting a series of 12 focus group discussions to obtain views and suggestions on selected issues from all parties.
3. This year’s focus group discussions are different from the previous years when they were organized solely by the Ministry of Finance. In order to encourage greater collaboration, I have ordered for the Budget process beginning this year to involve more stakeholders while working with all ministries in organising discussions based on the “Shared Prosperity” agenda.
THEME OF THE FOCUS GROUP
4. The theme for today’s focus group is “enhancing social protection for vulnerable groups” and is co-organised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, and the Ministry of Finance.
SOCIAL PROTECTION AND SHARED PROSPERITY
5. The Malaysian economy grew 4.9% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2019, compared to 4.5% in the previous quarter. The expansion rate came above market expectations and made Malaysia as one of the few countries in the world that experienced faster growth this year.
6. However, the prosperity of a country cannot be measured solely by GDP growth, or by the attainment of high-income status.
7. The Government is taking up the challenge to ensure that our economic growth is inclusive in nature. Economic growth has to be accompanied by improvement in living standards across all segments of our society. An inclusive development involves an integrated social safety net capable of protecting all Malaysians, especially the vulnerable groups.
8. Although the Malaysian healthcare system is functioning well with public funding, the rakyat still bears some of the cost directly. According to the World Bank, Malaysians incur 38% out-of-pocket spending when it comes to healthcare expenditure. This is higher than in Thailand and Singapore where the ratio is 12% and 32% respectively.
9.This should be read together with Malaysians’ low level of savings as well as the low capacity to save. A 2015 Bank Negara Malaysia survey showed that 76% of Malaysians were unable to come up with at least RM1,000 immediately in case of emergency. The household debt burden remains high at 83.0% of GDP in 2018, after declining from 83.8% of GDP in 2017.
10. The Government is concerned with this development and in response, we have introduced the mySalam scheme to lighten medical 3 cost borne by the B40 group. The scheme provides free health takaful protection to 3.8 million individuals aged from 18 to 55 years old. mySalam provides RM8,000 in one-off lump sum payment to any beneficiary diagnosed with one of the 36 listed critical illness, and offers an income replacement payment of RM50 daily to those hospitalised at any government hospitals for a maximum of 14 days, or RM700 annually.
11. Healthcare is only one component of social protection. There are other aspects that need to be considered too, like income and employment. The BelanjawanKu guide published by the EPF states that a person would need a “living wage” income of at least RM1,870 monthly to achieve a minimum reasonable living standards in the Klang Valley.The EPF also states that for a couple with two children, they would need at least RM6,620 per month.
12. Housing is another issue that need to be addressed as part of basic necessity. In this regard, the Government has loosened lending requirement for Dana Rumah Mampu Milik, a fund worth RM1 billion under the management of Bank Negara Malaysia to help Malaysians own affordable homes. Starting from 1 September 2019, those earning less than RM4,360 monthly wanting to purchase a home worth less than RM300,000 will qualify to apply for the fund. All successful applicants will enjoy a concessionary interest rate of 3.5% annually, for a period of 40 years. They would also enjoy stamp duty exemption on the relevant agreements.
WOMEN IN THE MALAYSIAN ECONOMY
13. The Government is also encouraging women to play greater role in developing Malaysia. Women labour participation rate has risen to 55.2% in 2019 from 54.7% in 2018. We are working to raise it to above 60% in line with the levels observed in industrialised economy like Japan. The Government will reduce barriers for women to work by making changes to the Employment Act by, among others, lengthening the period for maternity leave, as well as introducing anti-discriminatory and anti-sexual harassment clauses. We will continue to incentivise women to return to work after a career break.
14. Women’s participation at the Board of Directors level has improved. In December 2016, only 16.6% of board members were women among the top 100 listed companies. But by August 2019, the percentage has increased to 25.1%. Additionally, as of January 2018, 7 out of 100 largest listed companies had no women representation at all. As of February this year, I am proud to share that women are represented at the board level in all of those companies.
15. Today, we have at least 3 women as the chairperson for Malaysian banks, namely Maybank, Bank Rakyat and Bank Pembangunan Malaysia. This number will increase as I have proposed for another woman to become the chairperson of yet another Malaysian bank. The relevant announcement will be made in the near future. Having 4 women as the chairperson is an improvement from the previous administration when only a bank had a woman as the chairperson. This great achievement shows that the progress made through the appointment of Malaysia’s first women Deputy Prime Minister does not stop there. The Government will continue to encourage women’s participation in various sectors right up to the highest professional level.
16. In the 2019 Budget, the Government allocated RM107 billion to the social sectors across various ministries. This is approximately 34% of total Government spending for 2019. Specifically, the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development received an allocation of RM2.4 billion this year.
17. Out of the amount, a total of RM98 million was allocated with RM26 million for persons with disabilities, RM25 million for children, RM16 million for women, RM11 million for senior citizens, RM11 million for families and RM9 million for the homeless. These programmes are designed in line with the Disabled Person Policy, National Child Policy, National Policy on Women, National Older Persons Policy and National Social Policy. There are also various tax incentives given to employers to hire those from the vulnerable groups. Indeed, the Government has widened the incentives for hiring senior citizens that previously were reserved only for hiring persons with disabilities.
18. I would like to stress the importance of assisting the vulnerable groups in migrating towards digitalisation. This is especially so when our economy is digitalising quickly. At the moment, approximately 18% of the Malaysian economy is digitalised and by 2022, 21% of the economy is expected to be digitalised. We need to ensure nobody is left behind in this digitalisation process. In this new economy, access to the internet is no longer a luxury. It is a human right.
19. At the same time, the Government needs to rationalise and optimise the RM107 billion in social spending, especially in terms of government assistance. At the moment, the spending is done across multiple ministries that causes overlapping functions and aids. The public sector needs to reduce the function overlaps to ensure government assistance achieve the maximum impact benefiting vulnerable groups.
20. In this session, I hope to hear to your suggestion that will help make Budget 2020 as inclusive as possible.
21. I now would like to invite YAB Deputy Prime Minister to say a few words.