The Malaysian government's debt is expected to increase 10.1 percent this year to 502.4 billion ringgit (164 billion U.S. dollars) on account of higher domestic borrowings to meet funding requirements, the finance ministry said in its annual economic report on Friday.
External debt, denominated in U.S. dollars and yen, remains manageable at 1.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or 269.5 billion ringgit this year compared with last year's 257.3 billion ringgit, according to the 2012/2013 economic report.
Debt-to-GDP ratio for this year would stand at 53.7 percent, which is said to be sustainable although it is approaching the 55 percent limit that the government had set.
Malaysia's GDP is projected to grow between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent in 2013, from 4.5 percent to 5 percent this year, driven by private investments and domestic consumption. Last year's GDP grew 5.1 percent.
The fiscal deficit to GDP ratio is expected to decline to 4.5 percent in 2012 and further to 4 percent in 2013 at nearly 40 billion ringgit, while the government aimed to reduce the figure to 3 percent by 2015.
Total Federal government expenditure is estimated to be at 252. 4 billion ringgit in 2012, or 10.2 percent higher than in 2011.
The higher expenditure, the government explained, was due to additional allocations for one-off cash transfers, book vouchers and financial incentives to ease rising cost of living, subsidies and salary adjustments.
It plans to rein in operating expenditure through measures like the subsidy rationalization to reduce wastage.
Expenditure on subsidies, especially fuel subsidies in 2012 went up 17 percent from last year, costing the government 42.4 billion ringgit and accounting for 4.5 percent of the GDP.
Revenue this year is expected to go up by 11.8 percent to 207.2 billion ringgit through higher tax collection. For next year, the government's target is 208.6 billion ringgit.
The national budget for 2013 is currently tabled at the parliament by prime minister Najib Razak. The budget would be Najib's last before election is due mid 2013.
"The spending level as well as the deficit and debt levels are within the sustainable limits given that the conditions for next year will require some supports from the government in terms of boosting domestic spending to counter weak exports growth," chief economist with RAM holdings, Yeah Kim Leng told Xinhua.
"This is an election year budget, the government is not in a position to roll back spending... the burgeoning debt level is considered to be moderate when compared with debt levels in advanced countries," he said.
"The government will need to embark on a credible medium-long term plan and a realistic plan of structural reform for a balanced budget after the election. It is expected to roll back some of the inefficient subsidy, which accounts for more than half of the fiscal deficit, and embark on restructuring plans to expand its revenue to curb its over-reliance on oil and gas," Yeah added.
He said tax restructuring towards a consumption-based regime, which the government intends to work on, is needed although any drastic announcements is unlikely to be unveiled before the election.