Demystifying the goods and services tax

  • Business
  • Saturday, 06 Jun 2015

HUMANKIND has always been superstitious.

According to the Otis Elevator Co, 90% of all skyscrapers in the US have done away with floor number 13. For some reason, the number inspires a sort of mystic dread in human beings.

Its origins are vague and seemingly varied. The Hindus believed, for example, that 13 people should never sit together at a meal. The Nordic tribes believed that Loki, the Evil One, was the 13th divinity to attend a meeting of the Gods that ended in disaster.

More famously, it’s believed to have stemmed from the Last Supper where Judas Iscariot was the 13th guest at the table.

Compounding that faux pas, Jesus himself was crucified the next day believed to be Friday the 13th.

It is generally known as Good Friday which, in the circumstances, would seem to be a bit of an oxymoron.

You know, like civil war – are wars ever mannerly, courteous or polite? – or military intelligence – which is self-explanatory.

In any case, the number 13 has grown to represent something that has everything to do with bad luck. Would Apollo 13’s mission have been successful if it had been given a change of number?

Did you know there are 13 stairs that lead to the gallows? Or that a guillotine falls from a height of exactly 13 feet and that there are 13 knots in a hangman’s noose?

On the latter subject, here’s some news for you.

After knocking on wood, spilling salt over their left shoulders and avoiding black cats and ladders altogether, the Malaysian opposition has come out with a plan that combined genius with a dread of the number 26.

Concluding that the number 26 was very bad, it’s decreed that the alphabet should henceforth be reduced to 23 letters.

Starting with A, it now goes down to F where it stops and resumes at H after which it grimly winds its way to R where it halts again, continuing on U until it makes its weary conclusion at Z.

In one cunning stroke, they’d expunged the goods and services tax (GST) from the face of the earth. It was a crafty plan rooted in a superstitious act of omission that struck so mighty a blow against inflation that it compelled shopkeepers to raise their prices by a further 6% just to be on the safe side.

They were better safe than sorry, they reasoned, which was why shop-keeping was a labour of love that never meant having to say they were sorry.

Economists, however, have done detailed studies that have shown that the GST is the most equitable and progressive tax around. And the Government, which never took fortune tellers seriously, did take economists very seriously.

There’s only one problem with that. A recent scientific study showed that of all Malaysia’s natural resources, the first that was likely to be exhausted was the taxpayer.

It was the worst piece of news to emerge since a mirror shattered on a Friday the 13th in Parliament just as a Yang Berhormat spilled salt at his table where he had been dining with 12 of his associates at the same time a black cat wandered under a 13-rung ladder, on which a workman stood perched working on some lights without ever pausing to knock on wood.

It had to be a harbinger of sorts, an omen of ominous portent. It was: it was almost the exact moment when the authorities decided that the time was right for the introduction of a GST,

In the end, it all boiled down to politicians. They were the sort of people who never met a tax they didn’t hike.

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