Commentary Politics

When the “pak lebai” makes more sense than hopeful professors

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

March 15, 2018

A Youth’s Take – A column by Zaidi Azmi

THERE is no denying that Pakatan Harapan has been very consistent in wanting to abolish the goods and services tax (GST) but what it plans to do after scraping the consumption tax system varies from one year to another.

Its latest alternative to GST is to implement a fine-tuned version of the sales and services tax (SST), to which Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak pointed out the plan will hurt the economy big time, estimating a total loss of RM20 billion a year.

Another critic of Pakatan’s plan was the Director-General of Customs Datuk Seri T. Subromaniam, who explained that reverting to the SST would spook foreign investors.

But what Najib and Subromaniam may not have realise was that the SST mentioned in Pakatan’s recently revealed manifesto was different than the one replaced by the GST in 2015.

According to manifesto entitled the Book of Hope, this will be the fairer version of the old one.

How so? Well, apparently no one knows for sure because the Book of Hope doesn’t elaborate on the fairness and people-friendly aspects of this new SST.

When an intern asked one of the four strategists who supposedly authored the 60-point manifesto, the latter gave a peculiar reply.

“I cannot elaborate more. Please refer to our alternative budget. Everything is there,” insisted Pribumi Bersatu head of policy and strategy Dr. Rais Husin.

Rais’ response was rather contradictory because Pakatan’s alternative 2018 national budget, which was announced last year, did not present any substitute for the GST.

Because back then, the leaders of the coalition believed that the GST-borne revenue will be recouped through a post-GST-removal shopping spree.

Or perhaps Rais was referring to Pakatan’s alternative budget for the year before. But that too would not make sense because at that particular time, Pakatan had announced that it wanted to retain and zero-rate the GST.

To review other than the aforementioned two shadow budgets would be a tad silly as Pribumi Bersatu was only formed two years ago.

Pakatan prides itself for boasting a number of learned academicians in its ranks but the fact that none of these professors has yet to elaborate on their fine-tuned SST speaks volume about their intellect.

But where Pakatan seems to be lacking in substance, PAS on the other hand, has provided a thorough explanation on its GST-abolishing plan.

According to the Islamist party’s shadow budget, the Green Document, GST will be substituted with two additional taxes.

Should it form government, which is highly unlikely, PAS will implement a 2.5 per cent tax rate on a company’s fixed deposits and share trading gains.

The conservative estimate of revenue gained from the two taxes is expected to be RM51.5 billion, which is higher than the RM41.2 billion collected by the GST in 2016.

PAS deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man on Monday hinted that these two alternatives will be included in its manifesto that will be unveiled this Sunday.

If such is the case, it appears that PAS – often scoffed at as a party made up of conservative turban and lebai (skullcap) wearers – sounds more literate in economic matters than Pakatan.

Indeed, the jury is still out on whether the alternatives to be proposed by PAS are a viable substitute to the GST but at least the pak lebai (skullcap wearing religious elders) has presented a proposal that is not ambiguous.

As for Pakatan… well, it would not be entirely surprising if its proverbial GST-abolishing goalpost continues to shift.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at