By Tony Pua
Prime Minister Najib Razak told the crowd at the National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogue with women yesterday that without the GST, the government would have collapsed financially, and hence Malaysians should be thankful that he has implemented the GST.
“I am not kidding you, I am not fooling you. I am the finance minister, I know if we minus RM42 billion from the country’s revenue, you will be in a standstill and the government will be dysfunctional.”
Najib further added, “You can only spend whatever money you have. You will be in deep trouble if you have to borrow money from ‘Ah Long’ (loan sharks).”
The prime minister could not be more wrong on two counts.
Firstly, why is it that a country like Malaysia which is blessed and rich with income from natural resources is suddenly so desperately dependent on GST revenue after 60 years of independence?
Without the GST, the government revenue had increased consistently from RM123.5 billion in 2006 to RM185.4 billion (2011) to RM219.1 billion in 2015.
The above represents a 77.4% increase in revenue in the 10 years before the GST was implemented, or an annual compounded growth rate of 6.5% – well above the average annual GDP growth rate.
If during those years, the Barisan Nasional government had consistently boasted of strong economic growth and development, why is Najib now crying out that the Malaysian government will suddenly collapse without the GST?
The above itself debunked his second claim that we “will be in deep trouble if we have to borrow money from ‘Ah Long’”.
The very reason why the BN government is forced to implement the GST today to collect more taxes is precisely because we have indeed borrowed heavily over the past decade.
Our government debt has increased from RM306.4 billion in 2008 to RM655.7 billion by the end of 2016. Hence, the government’s debt increase of 114% far outstrips the revenue increase of 77%.
In the words of the prime minister, it is precisely because the reckless BN government has borrowed from the Ah Longs that Malaysians are now forced to bear the heavy burden of the GST.
The next question to ask is, why has the BN government borrowed so much and where has all the money gone?
The answer is simple – waste, corruption and kleptocracy in the BN administration as epitomised by the 1MDB scandal which will cost the Malaysian taxpayers at least RM42 billion.
While 1MDB headlines the extent of the graft and abuse of power in the Najib-led government, it is by no means the only significant scandal under the BN administration.
Annual Auditor-General reports over the past decades lay bare the malaise in the entire government machinery with nausea-inducing details of leakages, mismanagement and misappropriation.
This brings us to the inevitable conclusion that while the GST might rescue the BN administration for the time-being, we are not addressing the symptoms of the cancer afflicting our country.
Until such a time where the brazen culture of waste, corruption and kleptocracy is eradicated from the Malaysian government, no matter how much revenue the GST (or other new taxes) generate, it will never be enough.
As the Malay proverb goes, “besar periuk, lagi besar keraknya”.
Tony Pua is Petaling Jaya Utara MP and DAP national publicity secretary.
* The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT