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IPOH: Budget 2024 will focus on the M40 group and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), says Steven Sim.

The Deputy Finance Minister II said both groups are important because they contribute to the country’s economy.

Sim said the middle class needs assistance and to be empowered as many have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, 20% of the M40 group has fallen to the B40 category.

“They are the economy generators and workforce, and they are the ones who will spend in the local economy.

“We want to empower them,” he said at a press conference after attending the Budget 2024 Roadshow at the state secretariat building here yesterday.

“As for SMEs, they make up about 98% of the country’s economy,” he added.

Sim said Budget 2024 would be centred on two strategies – to increase the ceiling (maximum limit) and ground (minimum limit) of the economy.

He said the government wants to help entrepreneurs restructure and add value to their industries.

He said it wants to see high-tech and high-value industries brought in.

“We do not want businesses to just prosper, but also to be healthy, strong and smart, so that they can compete regionally and globally.

“When industries and businesses have higher-added value, they can pay better wages, preventing workers from leaving for other companies or countries.

“When businesses offer better wages, more job opportunities can be created, which will then improve tax collection and allow better infrastructure to be built,” he added.

Sim also said that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) would not be reintroduced.

He said it was not the right time to reintroduce it due to the slow economy, which is impacting the whole world.

“We are recovering from the pandemic and we do not want to burden the people as prices of raw materials and items will go up.

“It will burden the B40 and M40 groups, including single parents and young households,” he said.

“Certain quarters have their reasons for wanting GST as some can make claims but we see not just from their point of view, but on a wider perspective.

“It is also not to say it is not good or likewise, but it’s just not the right time for it,” he added.

To a question on whether the government would consider re-introducing the GST but with a lower rate, Sim said there were still other ways to increase the country’s revenue.

“We have not exhausted all avenues, like having better fiscal management, taxation and procurement.

“We can still resort to these methods without having to rely on GST for now,” he added.