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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hold them accountable, too

Publication: NST
Date of publication: Oct 23, 2013
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 019
Byline / Author: By Dr Tan Eng Bee

I COMMEND Datuk Seri Idris Jala's articulate explanation on the goods and services tax (GST). Despite its technicalities, GST appears to be the order of the day by 2015.

With the announcement of the new budget just around the corner, many are concerned about the kind of budget that will be presented, considering the rising cost of living and escalating house prices.

These, coupled with the Auditor-General's Report which details excesses, uncontrolled and fraudulent spending by government ministries and agencies, call for drastic measures to curb the abuse of public funds.

The GST, according to Idris, the chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit, will complement and improve the existing structure of tax collection and engulf a bigger and wider net on taxes collected.

It is common knowledge among taxpayers that if corruption and excessive spending are contained, with laws strictly enforced without fear or favour, we can save billions from going into the wrong pockets or down the drain.

That will hugely help taxpayers lessen the burden in contributing to the coffers with less taxable concerns on the table.

Besides strict enforcement, constant monitoring and periodic auditing to deter negligence and fraudulent deals, what other guarantees do taxpayers have when the GST is implemented?

What taxpayers need is to be assured that taxes collected and channelled to the coffers are well protected, and those entrusted with the money are men of character and integrity.

There is strong reservation among the masses on the manner in which money in the national coffers are spent.

Some of them are spent without restraint by ministries and public servants, and the government must give due attention to complaints raised by the public.

I hope the prime minister will consider the issues that affect the common people, especially the poor, and ensure whatever help, either in monetary form, goods or services, are prudently delivered.

I have no doubt we can increase collection of taxes through GST, which is a wider net to bring in more taxes for those who can afford to spend more.

I have no doubt we can be a rich nation living in surplus, a lender not a borrower, the head and not the tail, if we do things right.

For that to happen, we have to put the right people in the right place to do the right thing, that is, to spend our money wisely, prudently, and with a sense of accountability for the wellbeing of the nation.

Dr Tan Eng Bee, Kajang, Selangor

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