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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Walkout is irresponsible

Publication: NST
Date of publication: Mar 10, 2014
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 019
Byline / Author: By Azwar Nazrin

THERE has been much heated debate about the pros and cons of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). In view of the first Parliament sitting for this year, those planning a walkout should debate maturely on the matter. Voice their views constructively and not play on trivial issues.

Planning a walkout is never a responsible thing to do, neither are personal attacks and childish name-calling.

Parliament sessions should never be about who gets the last say but to come up with resolutions that will inevitably make an impact. The mandate of a wakil rakyat is given by the people, therefore, in turn, he or she needs to see it through with determination and finesse.

He or she must, with other parliamentarians, achieve a consensus when Parliament is in session and agree on the best solution for the people and nation.

The GST Bill will be tabled at the first Parliament sitting, which begins today. 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 during the 1993 Budget announcement by opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he was finance minister. The change in opinion begs the question of the validity of the opposition's protest. Is GSTreally bad for the nation and its people? Or is it merely a political agenda?

If GST will help the country achieve its aim of becoming a developed country by 2020, why not? With many programmes and initiatives in place, we have been working hard towards elevating 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 Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), had said that GST operates on a larger base and is, therefore, a more stable tax structure. It also provides more options than plunging oil taxes and royalties, and sliding corporate and personal income taxes.

Aside from internal benefits, it was reported that Fitch Ratings may revert Malaysia's rating to positive after the implementation of GST. This can only be advantageous to Malaysia. GST will also see exports being zero-rated to make our products more competitive in the international market.

Now, what of GST's effect on Malaysians?

Many have said there will be price increases. Many worry about sustaining their lifestyles. Opposition leaders have argued that GST will burden the rakyat, especially the lower-income group while advocates have said we may even see a price decrease for some products.

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah indicated that people earning RM2,000 will only pay RM15 more from the consumption tax paid today under SST, while Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan noted a slight increase of 1.8 per cent in the Consumer Price Index.

GST is not a political chip for the government or opposition. Let's not resort to stunts during the Parliament session but to debate maturely with facts and figures to arrive at a solution that's best for the nation.

Azwar Nazrin, George Town, Penang

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