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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lower house passes controversial GST bill

APRIL 7, 2014UPDATED: APRIL 08, 2014 07:00 AM
PR leaders unveiling a poster for the 'Faham GST, Tolak GST'
rally at Sultan Sulaiman Club, Kg Baru on December 20, 2013. —
Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — After just two days of debate, the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was passed in Dewan Rakyat, the lower house of parliament, with 119 votes for and 81 votes against.

The Bill also went through the committee stage reading with no amendments, ensuring that the consumption tax starts at a flat rate of six per cent beginning April 1 next year.

The tax is expected to help Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration rein in spending and tackle the government’s chronic budget deficit.

According to Klang MP Charles Santiago, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) MPs opted to skip the committee stage of the proceedings as they disagreed with the Bill on principle, and had nothing to add.

Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia called for the vote after Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan completed winding up after intense debates.

Following that, PR MPs had unfurled black anti-GST posters with the words “Tolak GST” (Reject GST) on them while waiting for the votes to be counted.

In the winding up speech, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan insisted that the implementation of the GST is to replace the “weaker” Sales and Service Tax (SST).

“Not to replace the income from petroleum resources and the income tax but to diversify the nation’s income,” he defended.

“Consumers will know which products or services are taxed and they will be able to plan their expenses wisely,” said the minister, stressing that the much opposed tax will help government finances and restructure the current tax system.

Earlier, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (PAS-Marang) wanted to know if the consumption tax was simply a way to broaden the country’s tax base, mimicking systems is wealthier nations.

“I am concerned that this advice is coming from people at the International Monetary Fund and financial scoundrels, including those in our country,” said Abdul Hadi, who is also the Islamist party’s president.

Kelana Jaya PKR MP Wong Chen suggested that Najib should try to living on GST exempted items and services.

“See if he can survive,” said Wong, adding that Najib should take public transport to experience the hardship faced by the lay person.

But Ahmad said GST is necessary to strengthen the country’s fiscal integrity.

He was unable to say if GST will stay at six per cent flat rate permanently.

“For now it will be (at the rate),” Ahmad said. 

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