BY MELISSA CHI
JANUARY 24, 2014
|Rafizi Ramli giving a talk on the Faham GST, Tolak GST campaign, |
January 23, 2014. — Picture by Melissa Chi
PETALING JAYA, Jan 24 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) will be hitting the campaign trail hard over the next few months to touch base with as many Malaysians as possible on the GST issue, hoping to amass a rally massive enough this May 1 to stop the government from introducing the new tax system.
Party strategic director Rafizi Ramli told a forum here last night that Malaysians, already struggling today to cope with rising prices, would only be ready for the GST, or the Goods and Services Tax (GST), once the median household income here soars to RM4,000.
The median monthly household income was at RM3,626 in 2012, according to the latest figures from the Department of Statistics web site.
“Even if it has already been announced, if we continue to campaign, criticise and voice our protest, come May 1, when the campaign to lower prices, anti-GST is heightened, if there are 300,000, 4000,000 people on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, as big or bigger than the Bersih crowd, I am confident two things will happen.
“Either GST will be shelved or postponed, or Najib will be thrown out of Putrajaya,” he told a small crowd of about 100 people at the MBPJ auditorium last night.
The forum was part of PR’s “Faham GST, Tolak GST” (Understand GST, Reject GST) nationwide campaign that will culminate in a mammoth rally to take place on May 1, also known as May Day or Workers Day.
“I think Najib will definitely will back down. He has done that before, BN (Barisan Nasional)has backed down three times already so I don’t see why they won’t this time around.
“So we have about two, three months to educate and really make people aware how bad GST is to them and hopefully that will bring as many people on the streets on 1st of May,” Rafizi told reporters after the talk.
The GST, which is a broad-based consumption tax, was announced during the tabling of Budget 2014 in October and is set to take effect in April next year. The unpopular tax was first tabled in 2009, but was delayed repeatedly due to fierce public resistance.
In defence of the new tax system, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and other Cabinet leaders have reasoned that it would prepare the country ahead of a challenging economic climate.
Najib, during his budget speech, had also announced that staple items such as rice, sugar, salt, flour, cooking oil, chickpeas, herbs, salted fish, cincaluk (preserved shrimp), budu (fish sauce), belacan(fermented shrimp paste), as well as water supply, and the first 200 units of domestic electricity would be exempted from the controversial GST.
Transportation, education and health services as well as sale and rental of houses and selected financial services would also be included in the list.
The prime minister had also pointed out that personal income tax would be reduced by 1 to 3 percentage points, depending on the income bracket.
The opposition, however, have repeatedly stressed that only 1.5 million workers that are paying taxes would benefit from the tax cut while 89 per cent of Malaysian households that are not earning within the tax bracket would be the hardest hit by the new tax system.
Last night, Rafizi, who is an accountant by training, explained that even prices for items exempted from the broad-based tax would go up as the traders would have to make up for the tax that would directly affect production costs, such as taxed electricity bill.
“From what you’re saying and from your examples and all that, it looks like the GST is going to be paid by me.
“So whatever I spend, I’m going to pay GST. I don’t like it,” a lady from the audience complained.
Since September last year, Putrajaya has embarked on aggressive cost-cutting measures after pressure grew for it to rein in a chronic budget deficit that traces back to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, and which has left Malaysia’s national debt at just below a critical legal ceiling.
Among others, the government has reduced fuel subsidies, removed the price control for sugar and increased the excise tax for tobacco.
Electricity tariffs and the assessment value for KL properties have also increased, while the federal government is considering raising toll rates and public transport fares this year.
The unpopular spending cuts have hit Malaysians hard as costs of daily essentials began to spiral, forcing the Najib administration to fend off criticism almost daily.
On Wednesday, the Statistics Department released higher inflation rate for December, with the consumer price index rising to 3.2 per cent from 2.9 per cent in November, the highest level since November 2011. It was also up from 1.2 per cent the year before.