PETALING JAYA: A cloud of anticipation surrounds Budget 2019, the first by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration and which Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has warned will be a “difficult one”.

For retired top civil servant Rebecca Sta Maria, one of the most important things she hopes to see in the budget is clarity in government policies.

This is especially so regarding policies related to increasing the ease of doing business and the implementation of the sales and services tax (SST), the former international trade and industry ministry secretary-general told FMT.

“I hope trade and business facilitation will be high on the agenda,” she said.

Other movers and shakers also shared their hopes and expectations for Budget 2019, to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow.

AmBank Group chairman Azman Hashim

“We have to understand that these are not normal times as so many new debts have been discovered. The government has to reduce expenditure where it can and increase revenue where it can. It is a longer-term plan.”

Affin Hwang Investment Bank chief economist Alan Tan

“Although the government has hinted that the budget will include ‘belt-tightening’ measures, I believe the austerity policy will likely focus on enhancement of spending efficiency, with the re-prioritisation of programmes and projects.

“This being the first budget for the new government after the 14th general election, we believe that other budget proposals will focus on sustaining economic growth, especially domestic demand, and reducing the burden of the rising cost of living, such as measures to raise income and purchasing power, especially for the B40 households.”

IDEAS chief executive Ali Salman

“The government should be able to announce priorities in spending cuts rather than introduce new taxes as per PH’s promise. It has taken positive steps by reviewing and revising some major infrastructure projects, and now is the time to come up with a coherent policy announcement on these spending cuts.

“The government should also offer special measures to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which comprise 97% of our firms, as these SMEs create jobs and wealth for the average Malaysian.”

Mydin Hypermarkets managing director Ameer Ali Mydin

“I hope the government will remove all subsidies and use the money to prop up the economy through development projects, though these may not necessarily be big projects.”

Malaysian Retailers Association president James Loke

“The government needs to attract more tourists to Malaysia and, at the same time, see that locals have more disposable income to boost domestic consumption.

“These are understandably challenging times for the country but more certainty from the government in terms of policies would help ensure stability of businesses, consumer and market confidence. We also hope to see policies which ease the cost of doing business.”

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers vice-president Nathan Suppiah

“We hope to see the construction of dedicated roads to the ports to enhance the movement of goods. This will be beneficial for those involved in the import and export of goods.”

Sunway Malls and Theme Parks chief executive Chan Hoi Choy

“The electricity rebate that was in place since 2015 was rescinded in the second half of 2018, escalating the business cost for all malls and mall tenants. We hope the electricity rebate will be reinstated and reviewed on a six-month basis.

“We also wish to see a higher allocation for tourism promotion as for the last six years, tourist arrivals have fallen short of target. For the mall industry, though 90% are still driven by domestic consumption, malls located in tourism destinations can have up to 20% visitor-ship from international travellers.

“The upside to this is that shopping, according to Tourism Malaysia, now forms the biggest expenditure in tourism receipts. Initiatives on visa-free travel should also be considered to help drive these arrivals up.”