GST led growth

IT HAS been almost two and a half years since the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) was introduced in Malaysia. We now pay tax in accordance with our consumption pattern. Although unpopular, many economist consider the GST as the most efficient way of widening Malaysia's tax base.

Following its introduction in April 2015, we witnessed a sharp increase in the price of goods and services, effect of which is still being felt today especially by the B40 (bottom 40%) segment of the society.

It was rather unfortunate for the government that during GST introduction period, various other unexpected elements further aggravated cost of living impact, such as the sharp decline in the value of the ringgit which caused our imports to become more expensive and the economy slowing down.

The Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) commends the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism for responding swiftly to price increase complaints by consumers, invoking the provisions of Price Control and Anti Profiteering Act containing unethical businesses practices especially those found to be making excessive profits.

The MDTCCs enforcement divisions proactive action surely did send warning signals to businesses against flouting regulations but this appears to have only worked well with established and reputable businesses. More needs to be done to check smaller businesses especially those which serve consumers daily needs.

While it is unfair to attribute the high cost of living issues entirely on the introduction of GST, it is rather unfortunate that interested parties have used the GST as an issue to attack and discredit the government, which the MCM believes is unfair. If the GST was indeed bad, more than 160 countries around the world would not have implemented it, the latest being India.

We continue to hear pledges to abolish the GST but would this not be an irresponsible move especially after millions of ringgit has been invested in its introduction and implementation?

Should the government continue to heavily depend on revenue generated from oil and income tax alone? How will the government fund development without sustainable tax revenue?

The GST has proven to boost the country's revenue base preventing the collapse of the economy, results of which were obviously demonstrated during the recent oil price decline.

What we need to see happening is not abolishing the GST but efficient management of revenue collected by plugging leakages and its equitable distribution, especially in helping to elevate living standards of the B40 segment.

While the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia is commendable, we need more sustainable social security mechanisms to ensure that long-term benefits are felt and enjoyed by the rakyat.

As for consumers, let us relook, reconsider and review our consumption patterns to ensure we minimise leakage while stretching every ringgit to maximise its value. Let's seize all opportunities which lie within our grievances and mould our world to truly become a better place for ourselves.

Darshan Singh Dhillon
Malaysia Consumers Movement