The funny people in charge of Malaysia’s coffers

Zaidi Azmi

SOME of the politicians with the Ministry of Finance (MoF) have been saying the darnedest things lately, with the bulk coming from the minister himself.

For example, two days ago Minister Lim Guan Eng said he hoped that businesses and retailers would be honest in filing their tax returns and stop evading paying tax.

“Tell the truth and we will be able to overcome any issues,” said Lim at a Subang briefing on the soon-to-be-implemented Sales and Services Tax (SST).

His plea was a tad ticklish and silly, given how Lim himself was instrumental in knocking out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which he had stressed – twice – was more transparent than the SST.

Moving on to Lim’s second funny bombshell of a statement and this was the not-so-shocking explanation on how taxes play a little role in determining the prices of goods and services.

And surprise, surprise. What actually determine such prices are, according to Lim, demand, supply and profiteering. Gosh, this means former deputy finance minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan of the previous Barisan Nasional government was right all along.

The icing on the cake was probably how Lim pulled the only-God-knows card when BN senator Tan Sri Dr. Ibrahim Shah Abu Shah asked him if the people would be happier with SST compared to GST.

“In relation to ensuring the happiness of the people… we can plan but only god can determine (the outcome),” he added in his winding-up speech relating to the SST bill in Parliament.


Had a BN minister uttered such a remark, it is highly likely that Pakatan Harapan leaders would have a field day in dishing heaps of verbal vitriolic but since the new Malaysia euphoria has yet to subside all appears well — and forgiven.

It was also a tad ironic how Lim, the person who sort of blamed god for whipping up a torrential rain that had flooded and crippled Penang last November, should look to the heavens for answers.

Seriously, praying for divine intervention after invoking god as a convenient comeback to retort critiques over a deluge that had actually resulted from sloppy hillslope development policies is somewhat conceited.

But enough about Lim and more about his special adviser, Tony Pua, also from the DAP, who seems to be equally gifted in dishing out absurd statements.

Recently Pua indicated that the government was mulling to tax soda and fizzy drinks, a decision that he insisted will not burden those with lower income.

The reason? “The B40 (those with median household income of not more than RM3,000) does not need to drink Coca-Cola,” said Pua in an interview with TV3!!

After it generated loads of criticisms in social media, Pua reversed his position to say that the soda tax was actually his personal suggestion and that he was not speaking in his advisory capacity.

Regardless of his clarification, the logic of Pua’s view sounded rather arrogant and out of touch.

Honestly, did he not realise that not only is a can of Coca-Cola cheaper than most other “healthy” drinks, it is also sold almost everywhere in the country, even in the remotest parts of Cherok Tok Kun.

Taxing something that is cheap, easily accessible and purposely marketed to everyone is the opposite of not wanting to burden the people.

If Pua really wants the government to tax sugary beverages while not burdening those in the B40, he should start with those ridiculously priced Caramel Machiato served by some cafes.

Seriously, no bona fide member of the B40 would fork out RM12 for sugared iced coffee.

But at least it shouldn’t surprised why the prime minister decided to move certain portions of the MoF to be placed in the new Ministry of Economic Affairs.


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