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Friday, November 1, 2013

GST: In the interest of rakyat?

| October 26, 2013

Our concern is not about what the GST will do to us – it is what Najib will do with the proceeds of the GST.

Whenever our prime minister, his ministers or any government spokesmen talks about the ISA, about negotiated tenders, about education, about AES – on just about anything that they have done, are about to do or will do – this statement or words alluding to same are invariably included for our consumption:

“The government is concerned and always takes into consideration the interest and welfare of the rakyat before making any policy changes.”

It is comforting that our government has the interest and welfare of the rakyat at heart in the things that they do. Over the years here are some of the things this BN government has done in the interest and welfare of our people.

RM29 million was spent on a Tsunami Early Warning System: Tsunami Buoy 1 deployed in March 2006 was reported lost. A new buoy was purchased to replaced Buoy1. It cannot be deployed because the Indonesian government did not allow Malaysian vessel to enter their waters to install the buoy. It now sits useless in a warehouse in this Bolehland of ours. Tsunami Buoy 2 deployed in December 2005 was reported lost. Tsunami Buoy 3 not deployed because permission was not granted by the Philippines government to locate in their waters! Buoy 3 was later reported to be defective.

RTM purchased three A4 scanners for RM14,670 each despite its earlier estimate that it would cost RM200 each. An increase of 7,235% from the estimated price. RTM bought A3 scanners (estimated to cost RM1,000 each) at RM20,630 each. And RTM also bought 20 wall clocks (estimated to cost RM100 each) at RM3,810 each – 38 times the estimated price. On a roll, RTM went ahead and purchase a Building Acoustic Measuring System estimated to cost RM100,000 for RM597,330.

The Maminco-Makuwasa Affair (a half baked attempt to corner the tin market) resulted in a loss of RM1.5 billion. The Bank Bumiputra scandal cost the nation RM10 billion. The Forex scandal in early 90’s was a loss of RM30 billion. The Perwaja Steel Scandal cost us RM10 billion. All up just these four issues costs the nation RM51.6 billion – all lost in the interest and for the welfare of the rakyat.

We are also told that the Election Commission is there for the purpose of regulating and conducting the electoral process so that the rakyat will have a fair and honest electoral process. Again for the interest and welfare of our people.

The judiciary is there so that we can seek justice. The police are there to protect the rakyat, and the list goes on and on and on.

All of the above was done, according to the BN government, in the interest and for the welfare of the rakyat!

Government-owned banks have been milked dry; EPF and Tabung Haji are work in progress. Petronas is still good for a billion here and a billion there. What else is left?

Introducing the GST

For now it seems that it will be the GST! Announcing in his budget yesterday, Najib Tun Razak has said the GST will start kicking in in April 2015, at the rate of 6%.

In principle, GST is imposed on all goods and services produced in the country including imports.

However, certain basic foodstuff likes rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, vegetable, fish and meat, eggs and essential services such as health and private education, public transportation, residential property and agricultural land are not subject to GST.

Such exemption is to ensure that the lower income group is not burdened by GST.

There it is again! “To ensure that the lower income group is not burdened by GST”. Allah be praised that we have such a caring and responsible government in Putrajaya.

But do you really expect me to believe that Najib’s ‘niat’ re the GST is for the interest and welfare of the rakyat? When pigs fly Najib…when pigs fly!

Why does the BN government need to implement the GST? Put simply the GST is an effective tax system to assist the government in raising revenue.

Currently this BN government raises its revenue through direct tax, income tax and oil-based revenue. The government spends more that what it collects from these sources.

Hence the reason why the government has to keep borrowing every year to cover its deficit. The GST will give this BN government the means to raise additional revenue.

Our concern is not about what the GST will do to us – it is what Najib will do with the proceeds of the GST.

Where will the extra revenue from the GST go? We have seen how oil royalty from Petronas held back from Terengganu and Kelantan when it was politically expedient for the BN government to do so.

I know from past experience that if this BN government was to announce cheaper petrol – it is because there is to be an election soon. If this government was to announce increase funding for an early childhood education program, it is because Rosmah Mansor, their patron, is planning another batik fashion show in Monaco to raise funds for Permata Negara (Huh!)

So a word to our government, to our PM and those politicians in BN who are already salivating at the prospects of the potential RM20 billion that the GST will bring in.

Open to abuse

The GST will only work if Najib’s ‘niat’ is for the common good of the people of Malaysia. There are too many of GST moving parts that can be abused, ignored or simply used for financial gain.

This together with our people’s ingenuity at finding ways of making money and with the eager and active participation of the BN government, the GST will became another way of making money for themselves at the expense of the rakyat.

So why should the GST be any different? The private sector and the BN government will somehow find ways and means to squeeze every single ringgit they can illegally make from the implementation of the GST.

And those in BN will somehow find ways to make money legally while Customs (tasked with enforcing the GST) will look the other way while the BN government looks on with one eye shut and one eye closed.

For the GST to work, the ‘niat’ must be to do it in the interest and for the welfare of our nation and our people – an impossible ask of a BN government that has consistently failed our people in their promise to eradicate corruption, money politics and arrogance amongst their own.

It would take at least a generation for our children to be taught different and another generation before our people will have the maturity to make GST work as it should work.

Nobody trusts the government to do what is right. Nobody will believe “the government is concerned and always take into consideration the interest and welfare of the rakyat before making any policy changes”.

In the end the GST will go the way of all other policies, projects that have gone under this BN government – it will burden the rakyat with more tax to pay with nothing to gain!

CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.

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