LIPIS, Pahang: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has defended the Goods and Services Tax (GST), saying it has enabled the government to distribute wealth to those in need.
Speaking at Lipis, a remote area populated by poverty-stricken indigenous people, he said that his ruling coalition supports a free economy that allows the government to interfere with wealth distribution to speed up the process.
“The higher income group pays more if they spend more. When they pay more tax, we can distribute (the money) to those who need aid from government," said the incumbent prime minister during his campaign in Pahang State.
"That’s why we can raise the salary of civil servants this year. That’s why we can increase the BR1M by 100 per cent this year – from RM400 to RM800. This is our government.”
BR1M or Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia is a programme initiated by Najib as part of the government’s effort to ease the burden of lower income earners in the country. The amount was doubled shortly before his ruling coalition published its manifesto for the upcoming polls.
The 6 per cent GST, implemented on Apr 1, 2015, has brought a slew of criticisms against Barisan Nasional (BN).
'RAPACIOUS ROBBERS DISGUISED AS BUREAUCRATS'
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party leader Lim Guan Eng slammed the tax, claiming it was introduced to cover the alleged loss of more than US$3.5 billion by state development fund 1MDB – the 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
Najib, who also serves as the chairman of 1MDB’s advisory board, was accused in 2015 of channelling nearly US$700 million from the state fund into his personal bank accounts.
However, Malaysia’s High Court ruled on Apr 9 there was no evidence that suggests 1MDB’s alleged loss or any misconduct by its board of directors.
“The tax department is hounding the businessmen because Malaysia has run out of money. So they have to squeeze and extort as much money as they can. They’re just like rapacious robbers disguised as bureaucrats,” Lim told Channel NewsAsia.
According to Lim, Malaysia is not a high-income nation and cannot afford the burden of the GST. The tax, he added, will never leave Malaysians unless BN is voted out in the upcoming election.
“Because of your failure and incompetency, you’ve run out of your money. And now you’re sucking the people dry.”