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☕️ Belanjawan 2023 - what's in it for you?
Apex Court: MACC investigation of SRC Int'l trial judge did not follow protocol. Indonesia's palm oil tycoon convicted in nation's biggest corruption scandal. HK socialite murdered, dismembered.
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Morning folks! Get ready your coffee and enjoy our Budget 2023 summary review.
1. MARKET SUMMARY 📈
2. NUMBERS AT A GLANCE 🔢
RM388.1 billion — Malaysia’s 2023 budget, revealed by PM-cum-Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim. It is Malaysia’s biggest ever. It is also 17% higher than the Budget 2022 allocation (not taking into account the Covid-19 fund). The budget has 12 objectives, focusing on three areas — driving an inclusive and sustainable economy, institutional reform and governance to restore confidence, and social justice to reduce the imbalance. Everyone has said something about it over the weekend — we’ve put together some highlights in the Malaysia section below.
RM5 billion — the amount ‘lost’ by employers last year due to employees taking sick days, according to Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Syed Hussain Syed Husman. The loss includes costs for the wages of employees on sick leave, outpatient clinical costs and the cost to replace workers on sick leave based on overtime payment. An old study in the UK by PwC (2013) showed that sick leaves cost UK businesses £29 billion annually (1.03% of its 2013 GDP). Based on DOSM’s figures, Malaysia recorded a GDP of RM1.507 tril in 2022. The amount lost is approx 0.33% of the GDP figure in 2022 — is it under or over?
The Unity Government might want to get a hold of this — they are unpopular amongst Malay Bumiputeras. O2 Malaysia carried out a survey (n = 35,077) to look at the public’s sentiment on the Unity Government’s first 100 days in office. 45% of the respondents think the country is heading in the right direction. When dissected by race, 76% of Chinese and Indians, 59% of Bumiputera Sabahans and 60% of Bumiputera Sarawakians agree with the statement. However, 43% of Bumiputera Malays think the country is heading in the wrong direction. Who should be looking into this matter?
3. IN MALAYSIA 🇲🇾
Let’s start with the most important that impacts us all — the tax policy. Income tax on those earning between RM35,000 to RM100,000 will be lowered by 2% at the expense of those earning more than RM100,000 to RM1 million. The latter will see their income tax increase between 0.5 to 2%. Visually, this is what it looks like below. You only feel the “pinch” of the +1% when your pay is above RM19,167. M40s, you are safe. On this note, you can begin filing your taxes for 2022 on March 1, 2023, onwards (Wednesday).
To be clear, this income band (i.e. RM35k - 100k) refers to chargeable income - meaning, it’s one’s gross income after tax reliefs and deductions (i.e. EPF, SOCSO contribution deduction), then only the government will tax.
Voluntary Disclosure Programme to be introduced between 1 June 2023 to 31 May 2024 with full penalty waiver — tell your chicken rice hawker relatives.
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will also see reduced taxes on the first RM150,000 of income to 15%, from 17%.
There will be no Goods and Services Tax (GST), but a Luxury Tax on watches and fashion goods will be introduced.
There will be excise duties on liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes and vapes. Half of the revenue from there will be allocated to the Health Ministry.
Moving on — the state of the Malaysia economy from the Budget
GDP is expected to grow by 4.5% in 2023.
Inflation is to hover between 2.8% to 3.8%.
Budget 2023 has a fiscal deficit of 5%
Revenue of RM291.5 bil against the expenditure of RM388.1 bil - estimated deficit of RM96.6 bil.
The government’s Debt-to-GDP ratio hit 60.4% as at end-2022.
Welfares from Budget 2023
Rice farmers are to get 30% of Bernas net profit from its rice imports. Which other monopolies will suffer a similar fate?
RM750 mil allocated to empower the poor to increase their earning potential.
Up to 20% discount for three months on PTPTN loan repayment starting March 1.
Government to contribute RM500 to those aged 40-54 with EPF savings of less than RM10,000 in their Account 1.
Members of the B40 group with household incomes less than RM2,500 are eligible for Rahmah cash aid of up to RM2,500, depending on the number of children.
Youths get between RM200 and RM400 through e-wallet credit under the Belia Rahmah eTunai initiative.
The cost of MRT3 is to be reduced to RM45 bil.
Syarikat Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan (SJPP) to guarantee up to RM20 bil in loans from SMEs. Entrepreneurs and business owners, do check them out here as it helps with taking loans from financial institutions without putting up large amounts of collateral.
Amendment of Insolvency Act 1967 so that bankruptcy cases can be automatically discharged at short notice.
Sabah and Sarawak get RM6.5 bil and RM5.6 bil, respectively, for developemnt.
RM2.7 bil to maintain and upgrade federal roads and RM1.5 bil to upgrade and construct new rural roads.
There is much more in the Budget. The simplified version of Budget 2023 can be found here (in BM). To find out more about how you can benefit from the Budget, visit the official MoF website. Bottomline is — we want to look at the implementation of the Budget. No matter how good the Budget can be, the key is in making sure the benefits trickle down to the right segments of society.
Apex Court unanimously ruled MACC probe against SRC Int’l trial judge not properly done
The seven-person bench, chaired by Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, observed the “curious” timing of the publicising of the probe done before Najib's SRC International appeal before the apex court last year. Chief Justice said that criminal investigative bodies are executive bodies, and thus, investigations into judges can amount to judicial interference. The scheme of the Federal Constitution requires that when investigating a criminal complaint, the relevant criminal investigative body must first consult the Chief Justice before commencing any investigations into the said judge. The failure to consult strongly indicates a lack of bona fide (good faith) in a criminal investigation. The CJ was not consulted by MACC in this probe. The probe was made known via a press statement, which did not follow the correct protocol. Hence, the Federal Court ruled MACC investigation against the superior court judge was done without following protocol.
Two teens arrested over criticism of SPM history paper
A female teacher filed a report on two 18-year-olds regarding a viral video showing the suspects uttering abusive words as they were allegedly dissatisfied with the history exam paper, leading to the teens’ arrest on Saturday. Perhaps the use of abusive words was uncalled for, but an arrest of two teenagers over an examination paper? Come on… Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said the two students were released at 11:30am yesterday so they can continue sitting for their SPM examinations.
Batang Kali landslide update
The Selangor government is ready to reveal the full report on the Batang Kali tragedy to the relatives of the victims involved. Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari said the report had already been prepared by the Department of Minerals and Geosciences (JMG). Family members of victims had urged the government to release the results of the investigation and also to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) over the tragedy.
Ex-Goldman banker involved in 1MDB doesn’t want prison time
Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng asked a US judge not to send him to prison for his role in the epic looting of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fund. In a filing to a federal judge, Ng’s lawyers wrote that Ng had suffered under brutal and cruel conditions in a Malaysian prison for over six months before being picked up by US authorities. His lawyers are pleading with the judge to sentence him to time served. US District Judge Margo Brodie has scheduled Ng’s sentencing for March 9.
4. AROUND THE WORLD 🌎
Indonesian’s palm oil tycoon convicted in the nation’s largest corruption scheme
Indonesia, in an unprecedented move, convicted a billionaire in the palm oil industry. Surya Darmadi, 71, one of Indonesia’s biggest palm oil tycoons, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and a fine of USD2.6 bil for his role in Indonesia’s biggest corruption scheme in history.
Darmadi was made a suspect following an investigation in 2014 and fled the country but returned on his own accord last year. He was charged with bribing Indonesian officials in Riau province - a major centre for palm oil production - to allow him to convert more than 36,420 hectares (for comparison, Sime Darby Plantations has 579.7k hectares of oil palm estates in 2021) of the forest into oil palm estates under his company, PT Duta Palma. Investigations found that his company made USD40 mil per month from these estates and was accused of committing money laundering and tax evasion since 2002 that inflicted state losses of UDR73 tril (USD4.8 bil).
The panel of judges handed down a 15-year sentence instead of a life term requested by prosecutors on humanitarian grounds due to his age and ongoing heart problems, arguing that the 15-year term shouldn’t be viewed as lacking substance.
Darmadi needs to cough out USD2.6 bil to pay the fine within a month of his final sentencing, failing which will be replaced with an additional five years of prison time. In other words, he needs to pay USD520 mil a year to keep himself out of jail every year.
Russia-Ukraine conflict - 1 year on
24 Feb marks the first anniversary of the conflict. Running up to the anniversary, China said it would reveal its peace plan, which it did on Friday. A 12-point proposal (read here) was released by China’s Foreign Ministry. No surprise if the Western powers gave it a yawn as the proposal is a rehash of the general principles China had stated over the past year. EU’s ambassador to China said that it is “not a peace proposal, it’s a position paper”.
Ukraine, however, was receptive towards it, calling the “position paper” a “good sign” and it expects China to be more active in its support towards Ukraine. On the anniversary, the US announced a new USD2 bil military aid package and new sanctions targeting Russia’s metal and mining sector and financial institutions. The US approved more than USD100 bil for Ukraine through 4 spending bills last year. A huge amount, but compared to the US government spending in 2022 of USD6.27 tril, it’s just 1.6%. US officials have asserted that Washington will back Kyiv “as long as it takes”.
Outside Earth, the Russians and the US are still collaborating. Russia will be sending its Soyuz aircraft to the International Space Station on a rescue mission to return 2 cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut after the original vehicle was damaged by a mini meteorite.
The gruesome murder of Hong Kong model and influencer [NSFW]
Abby Choi, 28, who went missing last Tuesday, was found to be murdered and dismembered in an alleged plot by her ex-husband and former father-in-law in what the police have said to be “premeditated” and “well-planned” with the former father-in-law being the mastermind. The murder was believed to have been committed over a dispute between Choi and her jobless ex-husband and family over the sale of an HKD70 mil (RM39.6 mil) property.
NSFW content coming up.
Police found some of her body parts in a flat alongside equipment such as a meat grinder, an electric saw and two pots containing human tissue. Two female legs were found in a fridge and later found her head and ribs in one of the two pots, filled with soup and minced meat believed to be human remains - carrots and green radish was found in the pot too. The search for her hands and torso are still ongoing.
Her ex-husband Alex Kwong was caught at a pier trying to flee Hong Kong with HKD500,000 in cash and several luxury watches worth HKD4 mil. Kwong’s brother and parents have been arrested as well — the whole family had a hand in Choi’s murder.
This incident reminds us of Mona Fendy’s case in 1993 when a state assemblyman was murdered and dismembered into 18 parts - not over a dispute of assets but a ritual killing.
Read: Fashion icon, influencer: Who is HK socialite Abby Choi?
The Turkey-Syria earthquake death toll has surpassed 50,000 (Turkey: 44,218, Syria: 5,914). Some 20 mil people or about a quarter of Turkey’s population, have been affected by the earthquake, with 1.9 mil of them taking refuge in temporary shelters and public facilities. Turkey’s justice minister announced that 612 people are being investigated over the buildings that collapsed in Turkey, including construction contractors, building owners and managers,
The Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia are competing to host an electric vehicle (EV) assembly plant for BYD, the world’s second-largest maker of EVs. BYD is already set to build its first EV production facility in Thailand. Malaysia isn’t in the race - something to be worried about for the nation’s competitiveness?
New ‘Lord of The Rings’ movies are coming after Warner Bros has secured the rights with rights holders Embracer Group AB, a Swedish gaming company. An animated feature, ‘The War of Rohirrim’ is on the calendar for 2024. Amazon holds the TV rights to the LOTR franchise. An overlapping in storyline is unlikely between Amazon and Warner Bros as Amazon focuses on the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of the movies, which focused on the Third Age, when the best-known events happened, and most beloved characters lived.
5. FOR YOUR EYES 📺
A coal mine collapsed in China’s northern region of Inner Mongolia, killing at least five people and 48 others are still missing. The scale of the collapse is horrifying as the trucks looked tiny compared to the avalanche of rocks and soil. Another angle from the ground (warning - graphic).
The below sculpture is called ‘Bruno’s Swing’, designed by Federica Sala after the birth of a son, as a tribute and a celebration of the joys of motherhood.