Leave politics out of new Budget


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 09 Oct 2019

ALMOST everybody has come out with a wish list for this Friday’s Budget 2020.

I thought I should join the bandwagon too.

As a veteran journalist following Budget speeches for the past 30 years, my only wish is: Exclude politics – particularly party politics – out of this Budget, and future ones.

Table a professionally crafted economic plan that truly benefits the country and the people.

I hope the government of the day will stop using the Budget as a political platform to hit out at the Opposition, or remove allocations for organisations linked to the Opposition.

The Budget is meant to contain an annual national strategy on economic management and address serious economic issues.

And October is that time of the year for the government to inform the people the state of the economy, past and future challenges, what have been achieved, what are expected in 2020 and how the economy should be managed.

Hence, the Budget should not be used as a platform to make distasteful political talk or implement measures with political motives.

The Budget is meant for the rakyat, regardless of race and political leaning. The country’s revenue is derived from taxpayers from all walks of life and who hold various beliefs.

Hence, the person mandated to craft the Budget should place top priority on national interest, not his personal political agenda.

With the economy facing tough and mounting challenges, Budget 2020 should be professionally planned to stimulate growth, create jobs, improve people’s income, reduce the cost of living and address shortcomings.

The mistakes made by Budget 2019 by a new finance minister should not be repeated this year and future years.

Last year, most people read it as politically vindictive when Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in his Budget removed the matching grant for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), just because this institution was set up by MCA in the 1970s.

It cost the support for DAP and Lim personally – particularly from the Chinese community.

Lim is also the secretary-general of DAP.

Although the MCA lost badly in the May 2018 general election, some of its good projects – particularly TAR UC – have benefited thousands of Chinese students from financially weak families.

Those in the DAP leadership who are products of TAR UC include Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok and Transport Minister Anthony Loke.

The Chinese community reacted vehemently against this removal of matching grant as it might lead to TAR UC raising its tuition fees.

TAR UC has benefited not only the Chinese, but also the poor Malays and Indians who formed about 4% of its student population.

It is to be noted that even people who were staunch critics of the MCA, such as Dr Kua Kia Soong, spoke up against Lim.

It is now the hope of the Chinese community that the matching grant given annually since the 1970s could be reinstated in Budget 2020.

A mistake made should be corrected. Give back what is due to the people.

The other issue the current administration has to address in a professional manner is the country’s tax regime.

Should the government reinstate the goods and services act (GST), after calls by many groups to do so?

GST, introduced in April 2015 at 6% after years of study and consideration by the Finance Ministry, was replaced with the Sales and Service tax (SST) on Sept 1,2018 by the present government.

Granted that GST was implemented by the former Barisan Nasional government toppled in May 2018, but the main consideration on this issue should be: Is the GST tax regime better than SST?

Again, leave politics out of the deliberations.

The Pakatan Harapan government pledged to remove GST before the May 2018 general election, as the 6% GST had caused a lot of hardship to the people.

But the current SST system has pushed prices up further and caused more hardship to the people. It is obvious that many are complaining.

At the corporate level, businessmen generally prefer the GST. A key organisation

supporting GST is the Federation of Manufacturers Malaysia.

Last week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stated that the government “has no problem bringing back the GST”, after a think tank proposed that the consumer tax could be reintroduced at a lower rate to help boost government coffers.

“If that is what the people want, we will review it, if it is better than SST, ” he told reporters.

It may be politically embarrassing for the Pakatan government to revert to GST, but if GST is a better system for the country, pride should be set aside.

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