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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Act against profiteers

Publication: NST
Date of publication: May 7, 2014
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 019
Byline / Author: By Sukhdave Singh

WHILE the Perak Consumer Movement (PCM) supports the Goods and Services Tax (GST), despite conflicting information on its impact, it cannot be denied that the average consumer is worried if it will have an adverse impact on his livelihood.

With subsidy rationalisation efforts underway and the recent increase in fuel prices and electricity tariffs which caused a spike in prices of essentials, consumers are now more worried if GST will further impact their livelihoods.

Currently, a negative picture is painted on the issue by interested quarters.

PCM believes that GST is expected to bring about - if not in the near term, in the medium- to long-term - a reduction in the prices of goods and services as businesses pass on the benefits of reduced tax incidence to consumers by slashing the prices of goods.

It remains a worry if this will indeed happen or will the dealers simply pass on the tax to consumers without making necessary adjustments.

What if businesses take advantage by increasing prices of goods and services, squarely blaming the GST? Is the government enforcement machinery ready to act against profiteers?

PCM calls on the government to ensure all enforcement capability, with relevant laws, are ready to be deployed to attend to consumer issues and grievances with swift action against profiteers.

There is also a pressing need for more strategic and transparent communication from the government to the public and businesses to create awareness on GST.

Civil society groups must be roped in to ensure the message is communicated correctly, while consumer bodies must be encouraged to set up complaints handling units within their respective areas to support the government by channelling consumer grievances to the correct enforcement agencies for action.

As the implementation of GST is a paradigm shift in the way tax is collected in Malaysia, low-income earners should not be left in a lurch for want of action by authorities.

We have seen over the years how traders have profiteered on a handful of price-controlled items announced by government during festivities.

Sukhdave Singh,
Secretary, Perak Consumer Movement

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