Representatives of consumer groups, the disabled, pensioners and low-income earners hope that Budget 2010 will turn out to be more than a fiscal map for the country.
They would like to see premier and Finance Minister Najib Abdul Razak using the proposals as a way of reaching out to those typically marginalised in policy making.
High on their wish-list is a request that benefits should trickle down directly to needy sectors of civil society, rather than prop up the interests of corporate players.
Gani Ibrahim, chief executive officer, Yayasan Salam
The budget should feature policies that provide significant allocations for civil society and capacity building.
I feel that it (should) be friendlier to the poor and the disabled. The government is (already) giving welfare (aid to such groups as) single mothers, the disabled and the homeless, but it needs to find an alternative way to help these people.
The poverty line is just a guideline. RM1,500 is too much for (those living in) Ulu Terengganu or remote Sabah or Sarawak, while RM800 is not high enough for those living in KL.
If we push the poverty line to RM1,500, we will find that more people will apply for welfare aid and this will just encourage complacency. (Also) if the (ceiling is raised), then the (government will) need to find a way to (meet additional payouts). Maybe then it will need to offset (the cost) with the goods and service tax (GST).
What needs to be provided are ways for the poor to work towards pulling themselves out of the poverty cycle; otherwise they will be trapped in this vicious cycle. If you live under a bridge, (your children are) not likely to go to school.
The government should have programmes that educate and support these people in their quest for a better life.
Jacob George, president, Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam
Implementing the GST was toyed with during the Mahathir administration, but it was shelved because there was not enough discussion. To implement it now would be a mistake, because it is still a murky issue. (For example), there the problem of double taxation (would arise).There is a need for more injections to jump-start the economy because the (benefits of the) first two stimulus packages have failed to trickle down to the man in the street.
There are some issues that the government should focus on. Firstly, consumers are worried about the escalating prices. Secondly, their disposable income is shrinking.
The tax structure is something the government needs to look at with a view to increase disposable income. Lowering taxes will help do this.
There is a need to do a post-mortem on our previous budgets. Instead of just announcing the new budget, we should have a session to discuss the previous budget (to see) what worked and what went wrong.
The widening deficit is worrying; we don't want to become like Argentina and Brazil. I believe that the budget will shrink, with fewer allocations to most areas, and a smaller operating budget.
Anthony Thanasayan, president, Petpositive
The government should provide a RM500 allowance for all disabled persons, above and beyond other allowances. This will be a great help to us. The allowance should also be given (out) promptly and easily. We need to cut through the red tape.
We would also like to see subsidies being given to the disabled for transportation, for example to help finance the purchase of a car.
This is in addition to further improvements to make our public transportation more disabled-friendly. At present, public transportation is inaccessible to the disabled. This is a major barrier to the disabled being productive. Lack of effective transportation is one reason why the 1 percent (employment quota for the disabled) has been a flop.
We would also like to see improvements in the way the government and employers communicate with the disabled. With current advances in communications, there is no excuse for the disabled to be left out. Provisions should be made for access to affordable computers and Internet connection for the disabled.
Najib is trying very hard to prove himself. He is coming up with innovative measures and solutions to many issues.
Here is an opportunity for him to look for ways to improve the quality of life for the disabled. The government should (go the extra mile) to ensure that the disabled are not seen to be a burden to society.
Wan Mahmood Pa'wan Teh, president, Malaysian Government Pensioners Association
We asked the government to give even those who have served less than 25 years (in the civil service) at least RM720 in monthly pension. The government has indirectly responded to this - those who have served less than 25 years, and who are receiving less than RM720, can apply for benefits to make up the shortfall.
We know that any monetary allowances will affect the budget. Therefore we want discounts and rebates, such as toll discounts, similar to air and rail travel rebates.
We suggest that a levy be imposed on contractors who hold monopolies, such as electricity and highway concessionaires, so that subsidies can be passed on the end-user.
The government's intention to rein in subsidies is actually a welcome one because this will mean that subsidies will be targeted to those who need it.
We also request a senatorial position representing pensioners, so that we can voice our views over 365 days, and not just once a year. This is because government pensioners make up half of a million of the population and our views often also reflect the views of all senior citizens.
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