GST makes 2015 year of living dangerously
2015 will always be considered one of the most dreadful Years for Malaysians due to the GST introduction on 1st April 2015. GST may have helped to narrow the budget deficit for 2016 but it created and continues to cut bigger holes in the people’s pocket. The prime minister cum finance minister has said that the government’s collection of revenue through the SST would have amounted to only RM18 billion. But GST is expected to rake in RM39 billion. And this make Malaysians poorer by the amount. While we were dependent on oil and gas all these years, it never struck the ruling government to develop its human resources and move up the supply value chain. The oil curse has reached Malaysian shores. The oil and gas dependence by the government has made the policy makers into complacency, recklessness, extravagant and unconcerned about integrity and honesty.
Malaysia’s long history of mega scandals like the RM2.5 billion from BMF, RM1.6 billion from MAMINCO, RM12.5 billion in PKFZ, RM9.4 billion from MAS, RM30 billion from Bank Negara forex dealing , RM10 billion Perwaja steel, RM250 million national feedlot and many more have made Malaysia poorer nation. Malaysia is currently surrounded by the 42 billion 1MDB and 2.6 billion controversies. Wastages, corruption and pilferage have become institutionalized.
To save the situation, the prime minister has resorted to implementing a 6% GST. Malaysians are going into 2016 with cost of living increasing and uncertain international economic growth. The prime minister seems to depend heavily on his foreign and private advisors who are supporters of neo liberal policies in shaping his economic policies and they have strongly recommended GST. But this view is not gaining traction among Malaysians.
Before the GST was introduced government promised people that prices of goods and services will go down because SST was 10% + 6% but GST only 6%. But instead prices of goods and services increased 2 to 3 fold. Malaysians felt mislead and deceived by their own government. GST introduced along with the withdrawal of subsidies on petrol and sugar, subsidy for electricity being reduced and tolls were hiked. Government has announced that LRT, ERL charges are also set to increase. All these measures by government at the same time has increased cost of living tremendously till Malaysians from all walks of life are feeling the pinch.
GST has now become an integral part of Malaysian tax regime and whenever government need to increase revenue they can just raise the GST tariff from 6% to up 7% or 8%. Singapore started GST at 3% now stands at 7%. With Malaysian’s household debt to GDP standing at 87.9%, one of the highest in the world, this regressive tax has been a hard blow to the not only bottom 40% but also the middle 40%. The long term ramification remains unknown and grim. These added financial pressures from 6% GST on the majority of Malaysians will increase their indebtedness further leading to more crime and social tensions in society as a whole. It’s time for the government to initiate a social economic impact study on the consequences of the GST introduction.
To add injury to insult GST was introduced in the mist of the prime minister’s own worst and most expensive corruption scandals. The RM42 billion 1MDB debt and RM2.6 billion donations where the prime minister is directly implicated remains unsolved and have increased the political risk in Malaysia. All these negative developments have weakened the Malaysian ringgit considerably leading to high cost of imports and increase in prices of goods and services. The high public debt was matter of concern among policy makers. GST needed to pluck the holes.
To make matters worse GST implementation was flawed and haphazard. Of course it’s normal to have teething problems but Malaysian’s problem went beyond the gestation period. The list of zero rated and exempted items were not settled long after implementation. The lack of consultation with workers representatives on service charges led to more confusion. The inability of customs department to handle technical questions and non-Malay speaking enquiries further added to confusion and disappointments. Poor implementation of the GST caused some sundry shops and retailers to close down. There are major discrepancies in the prices charged post GST which went well beyond the 6% GST level. The government doesn’t seem to have a clue why the price increased shapely and could not put a stop on traders raising prices.
GST has become a political thorn on the government especially the prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s regime. Malaysia is said to be facing its worse inflation after the GST implementation despite the many zero rated and exempted items. The concern and fear now is the government raising GST tariff to more than 6% in 2016 since oil price is expected to bottom out at US20 per barrel. In Budget 2016 oil revenue was estimated at US48 per barrel. 2016 looks grimmer than this year. Hope the finance minister provides information to Malaysians on meeting his 2016 budget proposals.