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Budget 2023: Malaysia delivers inclusive budget to strengthen recovery and build resilience

By K. Raman, Managing Director, Microsoft Malaysia

As the world goes through uncertain times, stability will be critical to ensuring our nation’s resilience in weathering economic pressures in the coming years. The newly announced Budget 2023 themed Keluarga Malaysia, Makmur Bersama” sees the Government of Malaysia making bold steps towards stability, by taking a whole-of-nation approach that prioritizes the well-being and prosperity of every Malaysian.

As I reflect on Budget 2023, the key theme I observe is how the Budget 2023 is designed holistically – ensuring that no Malaysian is left behind as we journey towards an inclusive and sustainable future, underpinned by technology and innovation.

With a total investment of RM372.3 billion, marking a significant increase from the previous year, we welcome the Government’s investment to drive digitalization for the public and private sectors, specifically in education and with regard to startups, SMEs and the underserved. We also commend the Government’s citizen-centric approach by empowering citizens with skills to prosper in the digital economy, whilst incentivizing sustainable development across the nation.

Building skills for jobs

Inclusive economic growth starts with ensuring everyone has access to skills and technology needed to succeed in the digital economy. With that in mind, part of Microsoft’s Bersama Malaysia commitment is to upskill an additional 1 million Malaysians by the end of 2023, and we believe in the power of collaboration to build an inclusive digital economy. Through various collaborations with our customers, partners, and non-profit organizations, we have achieved more than 60% of our skilling target as of August 2022 and we hope to partner with more like-minded organizations to bring digital skills to all Malaysians.

We are glad to see the Government taking initiative in delivering skilling opportunities through the Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp) by providing RM750 million to empower 800,000 Malaysians with critical skills needed to enhance employability.

In addition to skilling, HRD Corp and PERKESO’s National Placement Centre in Klang Valley will serve as a one-stop centre to support Malaysians in finding job placements – thus completing the jobseeker’s journey and providing holistic support for Malaysians seeking employment opportunities.

Spurring growth for businesses of all sizes

The Government also invested heavily in bolstering the nation’s business sector, announcing RM10 billion in financing for small and medium companies via Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to encourage automation and digitalization. We also welcome the Government’s efforts in catalyzing the digital economy through RM230 million of Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s Dana Impak fund aimed at encouraging local entrepreneurship in the technology sector.

This is in addition to the RM50 million being allocated to Cradle to help nurture local entrepreneurs and startups. In fact, we are supporting Cradle to provide startups with a global platform to scale their innovations through the incorporation of the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub within its MYStartup platform and get access to upskilling opportunities, personalized technical guidance, access to the Microsoft Mentor Network along with Microsoft technologies to build their products.

These investments are indeed necessary as they provide the funding and support for budding entrepreneurs to look at implementing technological solutions. We hope that with the added investment, more businesses will look to technology not only as a solution to enhance business processes, but also as a driver for innovation to ensure continued resilience.

Investing in our nation’s future through education

As is customary in Malaysia, education has once again received the lion’s share of this year’s budget allocation, with RM55.6 billion going to the Ministry of Education and RM15.1 billion going to the Ministry of Higher Education. We also welcome the emphasis on enhancing connectivity across educational institutions in the nation via the Malaysia Research and Education Network (MYREN) and Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA) projects, providing internet access to students to ensure undisrupted learning.

It is worth noting that Malaysia is blessed with some of the most talented and innovative educators, many of whom have worked closely with Microsoft to support their classrooms and enhance education using technology. Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Bukit Indah for example, demonstrated the influence educators can have not only in driving the adoption of technology in education, but to also inspire surrounding communities to learn digital skills and be part of their children’s learning journey. Indeed, over the years we have seen growing recognition for Malaysian teachers under, many of whom are Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts (MIEE), becoming changemakers within the education landscape.

The same goes for higher education institutions, with more academia taking steps to transform their learning process and better prepare themselves for the future work landscape. We saw this with UTHM in their Academy of Intellect and Data Analytics (AI.DA) program, which implemented the “One Student, One Certification” policy, thereby ensuring students are also equipped with digital competencies in addition to their degrees to ensure they are ready to participate in the workforce.

Strengthening cybersecurity for national resilience

The RM73 million invested into CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM) must be highlighted, as cybersecurity is a major consideration that may impact our nation’s resilience in the digital economy. This budget will go towards improving CSM’s monitoring, detection, and forensic capabilities to better combat cybercrime. A National Scam Response Center will also be set up involving police, BNM, and National Anti-Financial Crime Center and financial institutions.

As a company that places trust at the core of everything we do, having a secure digital landscape is critical to any future endeavor. As such, Microsoft is exploring collaborations with the Government specifically on cybersecurity strategies to enhance the nation’s digital resilience. We are supporting NACSA in areas related to capacity building, providing private sector insight and capabilities, as well as best practices on policy and regulation to transform Malaysia into the destination of choice for digital investments.