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Thursday, May 8, 2014

With GST resistance mounting, Putrajaya taps civil service as evangelists

MAY 5, 2014
UPDATED: MAY 05, 2014 10:43 AM
Participants of an anti-GST rally holding banners in front of
Parliament last year. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak
today urged the civil service to help win Malaysians over
towards paying their fair share for the country. — file picture
PUTRAJAYA, May 5 — Putrajaya today tasked its 1.5 million civil servants to educate a population unconvinced of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), even as it sets aside RM100 million for an information blitz on the controversial new tax.

Following a survey last weekend that showed nearly two in three Malaysians were in the dark over the tax that Putrajaya will begin collecting on April 1, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today urged the civil service to help win Malaysians over towards paying their fair share for the country.

“We must explain to the people that a lot of Malaysians don’t pay taxes and as the finance minister, I know that some even pay less than they should.

“We found that some people have a low income but still manage to send their children overseas. That must mean that they under-declare their income,” he told civil servants at the monthly Prime Minister’s Department assembly.

He also credited Malaysia’s success now to the current and past governments’ long-term planning, which he said may result in the temporary hardships before their benefits can be fully realised.

“For example, when we want to introduce GST because it is a progressive tax that can help broaden the country’s revenue base,” he said in Malay, pointing out that only one million Malaysians pay taxes, out of a population of 30 million.

Political foes in the Pakatan Rakyat opposition pact have argued that the new tax will be a burden especially to the lower income group, who don’t even earn enough to qualify for the lowest taxable income bracket.

To counter that, Najib said the government is still studying items considered as basic necessities to be exempted or be classified as zero-rated, to lessen the burden.

The prime minister added the fact that GST has been implemented by 90 per cent of the countries in the world, proves that the tax system is fair, progressive and can be accepted by the people.

“If not, people in 190 countries will reject this system.

“That’s why we need to ramp up our effort to explain to people so that they truly understand and not just accept this new tax without proper understanding,” he said.

Najib also said that the revenue from the GST can be used to build infrastructure in urban and rural areas so Malaysia can continue to have a “competitive advantage”.

There would also be more cashflow to invest in human capital and in the health industry, as well as for the welfare of its 1.5 million civil servants, he said.

“Don’t look at the short-term benefit from populist policies because we have to consider what is good for the people and the country, even if we might face some hardship in the short-term, but we know it’s for our own good.

“Like taking antibiotics, we have to finish the full course for us to be healthy again,” he said.

At the same time, the Umno president also acknowledged that the government will need to take audit reports seriously to prevent further leakages.

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