Saturday September 11, 2004

Abdullah pays tribute to Mahathir
in maiden budget speech

KUALA LUMPUR Sept 10 - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi paid tribute to his predecessor, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at the onset of his maiden budget presentation at the Dewan Rakyat here Friday.
Abdullah, who is also Finance Minister, said the people and the country deeply appreciated Dr Mahathir's invaluable contribution towards the nation's remarkable development.
Dr Mahathir was also the previous finance minister.
"My objective is to continue building on past achievements towards attaining greater success," said Abdullah at the start of his almost two-hour budget speech.
MEANWHILE Abdullah also said the government will provide the imam of each mosque in the country a RM450 monthly allowance starting January 2005.
He said this was in recognition of the important role imams played in the community.
The Prime Minister also proposed tax exemptions for retirement benefits for private sector employees who had to retire between the age of 50 and 55.
The proposed income tax exemption of up to RM6,000 for each year of service was to relieve the tax burden of the affected employees, he said.
At present, tax exemption on retirement benefits in the private sector is only provided to those who go on mandatory retirement at the age of 55.
In another case, as a measure to further stimulate the development of Islamic financial and capital market products as well as to ensure tax neutrality with conventional products, the government Friday proposed that any additional tax or duty on such Islamic products be exempted or given specific treatment.
Abdullah, however, said that the treatment would be for Islamic financial products approved by the Syariah Advisory Council (SAC) and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and Islamic capital market products approved by the SAC and Securities Commission.
He said the Islamic financial products also included products offered by any other body outside the supervision of BNM, subject to the approval of the SAC, BNM.
The proposal is effective for products approved from Sept 11, 2004.
Currently, Islamic financial and capital market products require additional transactions and instruments to comply with Syariah principles.
"Thus, these products are burdened with additional taxes and duties such as stamp duty, real property gains tax and income tax compared with conventional products," Abdullah said.
In order to ensure the competitiveness of these products against conventional products, tax and duty exemptions and specific income tax treatment are considered on a case-by-case basis.
And to create a caring society, the government will concentrate on protecting women's interest and to this end, RM37.8 million will be channelled for women development programmes.
The Prime Minister proposed the funds for programmes like Nur Bestari, Legal Literacy and the Women Against Violence Campaign as well as for temporary shelters for abused women and children.
"To support these activities, the government will provide annual matching grants to selected NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and welfare organisations which run shelter homes for women and children," he said in the Dewan Rakyat Friday.
For the less fortunate, RM129.5 million is proposed under the family development programme including for moral rehabilitation efforts and day-care centres for the elderly.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"