Revert to GST? Improve, reform SST first, urges Anwar

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attends the LawAsia Conference at One World Hotel in Petaling Jaya October 4, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 — Putrajaya should maintain the current Sales and Service Tax (SST) system and work towards reforming and improving it, before even considering reinstating the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.

Anwar, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Caucus on Reform and Governance, admitted that despite the GST being the more transparent and efficient taxation system, it would not be fair to tax the entire nation with an umbrella system.

“You also have to realise the taxation policies being very transparent and efficient can still cause a lot of leakages,” he explained after his keynote address at the LawAsia Constitutional and Rule of Law Conference 2019 here.

“So, for now I think, although I do accept the fact that [GST] is more efficient and transparent, but with the income levels of RM1,500 to RM1,800 or RM2,000 and even RM3,000 [per household] it is grossly unjust to impose it.

“When the threshold goes beyond RM4,000 [per household], then this can be considered, but that would take some years before we can even consider this option,” he added.

The PKR president said the decision whether or not to reintroduce the GST would be based on the level of median income of those who fall under the bottom 40 per cent households category, or B40.

Anwar also advised against rushing into reimplementing the GST, warning such a move could cause unrest among the public.

“To my mind, I think we should proceed now with SST; improve and reform when necessary, make necessary adjustments and allow for some years to pass before we start considering change again.

“Because change is going to be a hell of a lot of problems, as you can see in the last six months when SST was implemented,” he said.

This comes as Dr Mahathir told a news conference yesterday that his government would study calls to bring back the GST if Malaysians ask for it.

Earlier this week, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research chairman Tan Sri Kamal Salih mooted the return of the consumption tax introduced in April 2015 by the Datuk Seri Najib Razak administration.

Salih suggested the tax be reintroduced but at a reduced rate of 3 per cent, saying the unpopular tax had brought in much needed revenue that kept the government afloat when world crude oil prices fell.

Meanwhile, during his keynote address, Anwar urged the legal fraternity to be more involved in public service, and to make legal services more accessible, especially to the poor and marginalised.

“As I have done in the past, I urge lawyers to do more public service and make legal expertise more accessible, particularly to the less fortunate, to the poor and to the marginalised.

“I have benefited tremendously from this expertise, especially from the fearless advocacy conducted within the canons of service motivated by that relentless drive to fight for justice and the rule of law.

“If we believe that the rule of law has to be founded on the constitutional safeguards for the protection of civil rights and freedoms, public-interest litigation and advocacy must remain a hallmark of that service to society,” he said.

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