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Monday, March 10, 2014

Don’t walk out, debate maturely on GST

March 9, 2014
FMT LETTER: From Azwar Nazrin, via e-mail

We live in a society obsessed with public opinion. But leadership has never been about popularity. – Marco Rubio

There are many virtues to which we hope is innate to a leader: visionary, persuasive yet ethical and steadfast in his or her will to do the best for people. However, local leaders have at times not exhibited such qualities. We have witnessed antics during parliament sittings that include:

Walking out of Parliament by opposition leaders due to disagreement (and holding a press conference afterwards).

MPs being asked to leave the Parliament session for causing chaos from dispute.

Personal attacks and childish name calling

Parliament sessions have never been about squabble nor who gets the last say, but the result made that will inevitably make an impact on Malaysians, the rakyat. This evokes the question if these are truly the leaders we want, to put the people’s interest before their own, and to propel Malaysia to a new high and beyond.

The mandate of a political leader is given by the people and in turn, he or she needs to see it through with determination and finesse. Work towards achieving a consensus when in parliament and derive the best possible solution for the people and nation.

The GST bill will be tabled in the first parliament sitting for the year which starts on Monday, March 10, 2014. As with all bills, there is a great divide in opinion. The opposition is quick to dismiss it though many have forgotten that it was also mooted by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim during the 1993 budget announcement.

This was while he was on the other side of the great divide, playing the role of finance minister. The change in opinion begs the question of the validity of their protest. Is GST really bad for the nation and its people? Or is it merely a political agenda?

As a concerned citizen, my question is simply if GST will help the country achieve its aim of becoming a developed country by 2020. With many programmes and initiatives in place, we have been working hard towards alleviating the status of Malaysia. To do so, tax is needed for development and progress. To this end, GST was suggested and is said to be more transparent and efficient than the current Sales and Services Tax (SST).

Steven Wong, Senior Director of ISIS Malaysia attests: “The GST operates on a larger base and is, therefore, a more stable tax structure. It provides us with more options than plunging oil taxes and royalties and sliding corporate and personal income taxes.”

Aside from internal benefits, news has said that Fitch Ratings may revert Malaysia’s rating to positive after the implementation of GST. This can only be advantageous to Malaysia. Further, GST will see exports being zero-rated to make Malaysia products more competitive in the international market.

Now, what of GST’s effect on Malaysians?

Naturally, as a consumer myself, I cannot help but worry about the impact of GST on livelihood. Many have said that there will be price increase. Many worry about sustaining their lifestyles. Meanwhile, opposition leaders have strongly argued that GST will burden the rakyat, especially the lower-income groups. On the other hand, advocates of GST have said that we may even see a price decrease in some products.

Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan noted a slight increase of 1.8% of CPI, while Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni indicated that people earning RM2,000 will only pay an addition of RM15 from the consumption tax paid today under SST.

There are so many talking points on the GST. Over the past four months, we’ve seen leaders from both BN as well as PR asserting the pros and cons of GST. Next week, they will be facing off in parliament, hopefully, to discuss this new tax system.

The question now is how will the debate pan out? Will politician remember their remit to the people, the rakyat? Will they see beyond their selfish political aim and gains and focus on whether GST is truly best for Malaysia and her people?

Will they carry out the mandate given to them by their constituents to represent the rakyat in parliament, where they should debate and discuss issues like mature adults, or will they act like childish brats, shouting abuse at each other or walking out of Dewan Rakyat?

GST is not a political chip for the government or the opposition. Let’s not resort to stunts during the parliament session but debate maturely with facts and figures to arrive at a solution best for the nation, regardless whether one is of the ruling government or the federal opposition. YBs, please do your jobs.

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