GST will push up home prices by 2.6%, said Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia


GST_Home price upBut it says still too early to determine exact increase

PETALING JAYA: Home prices will rise by about 2.6% once the goods and services tax (GST) comes into play, said the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda).

The chairman of the association’s task force on accounting and taxation, Datuk Ng Seing Liong, said that the calculation was based on its consultations with industry experts and member developers.

REHDA_GST prices upReal Estate and Housing Developers’ Association of Malaysia (Rehda) says the GST is likely to raise property prices.

Rehda’s 2.6% estimate differs from that of the Customs Department, which expects the GST to have an impact of between 0.5% and 2% on house prices, assuming there’s no change in supply and demand conditions.

Ng said the association was in full support of the GST and concurred with Customs GST director Datuk Subromaniam Tholasy, who had said that land did not incur the 6% GST rate.

However, he said land was by no means the largest cost component in property development.

“As our calculation clearly spells out, the construction cost, which constitutes 46% of the total development, is not only the largest component but also the component which will attract the GST of 6%,” he said in a letter to StarBiz.

He said the GST on this component would inevitably lead to an increase in house prices.

Appending calculations for a housing unit originally priced at RM400,000, Ng said the price post-GST would be around RM410,560.

Under the 46% construction component, costs were broken down into non-service taxable and service taxable segments, representing 44%, or RM176,000, and 2%, or RM8,000, respectively.

Under the non-service taxable segment comes items such as cement/concrete, steel, bricks and sand, while the service taxable segment includes tiles and fittings/sanitary. Under the existing sales and service tax, no tax is imposed on the non-service taxable category, while the service taxable category has a tax of up to 10% imposed on it.

Post-GST, Rehda’s calculations showed that the non-service taxable cost had gone up to RM186,560, while the service taxable cost remained at RM8,000.

It maintained the same cost estimates for other items, including land (15% or RM60,000), infrastructure and pre-development works (10% or RM40,000), professional fees and marketing costs (6% or RM24,000), finance costs (6% or RM24,000) and profit (17% or RM68,000).

Ng said Rehda also disagreed with Subromaniam, who had said that developers could easily absorb cost increases as their margins were around 30%.

He said it was currently impossible for developers to earn up to a 30% profit, as most development costs were on the rise, along with various capital contributions and charges imposed on developers.

“On average, as tabulated in the calculation, developers, most of which are public-listed companies, are only making around 17% at best,” he said.

However, Ng said it was still too early to determine the actual house price increases post-GST, as Rehda was still in discussions with the Government and there appeared to be many more issues to be ironed out.

By Isabelle Lai The Star/Asia News Network


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More Malaysians are being declared bankrupt!


JOHOR BARU: Young Malaysians are being declared bankrupt because they spend more than they earn, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri (pic).

This trend was worrying because most of them had just started working but already had debt problems, she added.

“This younger generation are supposed to be the next leaders. Instead, we have those who are already facing financial difficulties at a very young age,’’ she told a press conference after opening an information programme for young people at the Home Ministry complex at Setia Tropika here yesterday.

Quoting figures from the Insolvency Department, she said there was an increase in the number of young Malaysians being declared bankrupts in the past five years.

She said there were nearly 22,000 cases last year, an increase from about 13,200 in 2007.

Within the first six months of this year, more than 12,300 young Malaysians had been declared bankrupt. They include 3,680 women.

“On the average, 70.22% of the cases are men,” said Nancy, adding that most of them have outstanding debts of RM30,000 or more and could not afford to settle their dues.

She said the high bankruptcy rate among Malaysians at a young age mainly resulted from defaulting on instalment payments on car, housing and personal loans.

Nancy said there had been celebrities who were also declared bankrupt but most of them declined to seek assistance from the Insolvency Department.

She added that aside from the department, those who have problems managing their finances could seek advice from the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency.

The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysian homes more unaffordable than Singapore, Japan and the US; Budget 2015 brings little joy


Home affordability_ Dem

File picture shows houses under construction in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia has a ‘severely unaffordable’ residential homes market, according to researcher Demographia.— AFP

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Malaysia has a “severely unaffordable” residential homes market, with housing even more out of reach for its residents than in Singapore, Japan and the United States, according to US-based urban development researcher Demographia.

Demographia’s report was cited today in a report in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper to highlight how many Malaysians continue to be locked out of the residential housing market despite the federal government’s attempt at helping first-time house buyers.

According to the ST report, Demographia rates housing as severely unaffordable if it is 5.1 times median annual income. Malaysia clocks in at 5.5x, higher than Singapore’s 5.1x, while housing in the United States and Japan is “moderately unaffordable”.

Government data cited by the ST report shows that since 2012 median monthly household income has risen eight per cent annually to RM4,258, slower than the average housing price increase of 10 per cent to RM280,886.

The country’s consumer price index has risen by an average of 3.3 per cent this year and Putrajaya had warned it may spike by 5 per cent next year, tripling the 2013 average.

In presenting Budget 2015 last Friday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak introduced a Youth Housing Scheme that will waive down-payments and subsidise ownership by up to RM10,000 for 20,000 married couples under 40.

Najib also said the government would provide another 80,000 new homes priced at RM100,000 to RM400,000 under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA).

Both schemes, including the existing My First Home (MFH) scheme are only for households with a combined monthly income of less than RM10,000.

According to Bank Negara only a third of My First Home applicants received loans in the first year, as banks refused to take risks.

And PR1MA has seen just 761 buyers for the 160,000 units launched since 2013.

“We earn just over that but it’s not enough for savings. We can convert rent into loan repayments but we can’t pay the 10 per cent deposit,” lawyer Puteri Mohamad told the Straits Times in commenting on the Budget proposal to help households earning less than RM10,000 monthly to buy homes.

Office administrator Mimie Azriene Mohd Zin, 32, has no children but she and her technician husband have applied for a PR1MA home.

But she told the Straits Times they have not figured out how to afford the down payment on their combined income of under RM4,000 a month that leaves them with little savings living in expensive Kuala Lumpur.

“We might not even be able to afford the repayment but we have to try before prices go up further,” she told the daily.

Source:  http://www.themalaymailonline.com/

Malaysia’s budget aid brings little joy to house hunters

Despite being a partner in a law firm just outside Kuala Lumpur, Ms. Puteri Mohamad, and her fiance, can only watch as apartments in the area where she lives spiral above 500,000 ringgit (US$153,334).

When the government proposed measures in its 2015 Budget — released on Friday — to help households earning less than 10,000 ringgit (US$3,067) monthly to buy homes, she was not at all elated.

“We earn just over that but it’s not enough for savings. We can convert rent into loan repayments but we can’t pay the 10 percent deposit,” said Puteri, 33, who lives in a rented flat in Petaling Jaya.

Many Malaysians like her find themselves locked out by a combination of what U.S.-based urban development researcher Demographia rates as a “severely unaffordable” residential market and accelerating inflation.

Malaysia’s consumer price index — which includes many subsidized goods — has risen by an average of 3.3 percent so far this year and the government warns it may spike by 5 percent next year, nearly triple the 2013 average.

Government data shows that since 2012 median monthly household income has risen 8 percent annually to 4,258 ringgit, slower than the average housing price increase of 10 percent to 280,886 ringgit.

Demographia rates housing as severely unaffordable if it is 5.1 times median annual income.

Malaysia clocks in at 5.5x, higher than Singapore’s 5.1x, while housing in the United States and Japan is “moderately unaffordable.”

Prime minister Najib Razak said in his budget speech the government would provide another 80,000 affordable homes (priced at 100,000 ringgit to 400,000 ringgit) under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA) and introduce the Youth Housing Scheme that will waive downpayments and subsidize ownership by up to 10,000 ringgit for 20,000 married couples under the age of 40.

Both schemes, as well as the existing downpayment waiver under the My First Home scheme, are only for households with a combined monthly income of less than 10,000 ringgit.

The National Housebuyers Association lauded the moves to help aspiring homeowners in financing but criticized the lack of new measures to cool rising prices that are the root of the problem.

Its secretary-general, Chang Kim Loong, said speculators have taken advantage of the low entry cost of buying a property at the expense of genuine buyers.

Office administrator Mimie Azriene Mohd Zin, 32, has no children but she and her technician husband have been unable to even think of home ownership until these schemes came along.

They applied for a PR1MA home, which the government says is priced 20 percent lower than comparable units, worth about 200,000 ringgit three months ago.

But they have not figured out how to afford the downpayment on their combined income of under 4,000 ringgit a month that leaves them with little savings living in expensive Kuala Lumpur.

“We might not even be able to afford the repayment but we have to try before prices go up further,” she said.

That is, if she can get a loan in the first place. The central bank reported that only a third of My First Home applicants in the first year received loans as banks refused to take the risk.

Tellingly, even PR1MA saw just 761 buyers for the 160,000 units launched since 2013.

BY By Shannon Teoh, The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Annual DhiDemographia International Housing Affordability Affordability Survey: 2014

PDF]10th Annual D hi Demographia International Housing

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Ma’sian immigration blacklists: PTPTN loan defaulters among 1.14 mil barred from travels


Immigration entrydenied_star

PUTRAJAYA: A wide net has been cast on those barred from leaving the country by the Immigration Department.

And it is not just tax offenders and those with criminal records who face a rude shock at border checkpoints or at the airport.

The latest figures show some 85,000 National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) beneficiaries who did not repay their loans on the department’s travel blacklist.

They are among 1.14 million people on the list which includes 701,266 Malaysians.

The department has advised Malaysians to check their Immigration status prior to making holiday plans overseas to avoid problems.

“It is the responsibility of the traveller to first check if they are cleared to leave the country.

“It doesn’t matter if you are planning to leave by flight, road, rail or sea.

“As long as you are on the blacklist, you will not be allowed to pass the Immigration checkpoint, even if you have a valid flight ticket,” Immigration security and passport division director Ibrahim Abdullah told The Star.

As of Sept 3, the department’s overseas travel restriction orders included those who have been declared with outstanding debt issues. There were 277,693 such Malaysians named by the Insolvency Department.

Malaysians who have violated a foreign country’s immigration laws, such as by overstaying or abusing their travel visas, are also not spared.

Ibrahim said the countries concerned may bar the defaulters from re-entering the country and this information would be shared with the local Immigration department, such as Malaysia’s, which would then put the defaulter on a watchlist.

A total of 32,516 Malaysians were in this category for having overstayed in another country, alongside 115,803 foreigners who have similarly overstayed in Malaysia and are now barred from leaving the country.

“If any Malaysians on the watchlist try to leave the country, they will be stopped and taken in for an interrogation until it is satisfied that they will not commit the same act in another country again,” said Ibrahim.

Stubborn tax defaulters make up a sizeable group on the travel blacklist, with 135,111 persons named by the Inland Revenue Board.

The Star has reported on Aug 26 that defaulters will not be allowed to travel abroad until they have settled their tax obligations.

The treatment will be the same for those with outstanding issues with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), such as those who failed to file their EPF contributions. There were 10,219 Malaysians and 532 foreigners listed under this category.

Another 133,314 non-citizens have been barred from leaving the country for having their citizenship revoked or application rejected by the National Registration Depart­ment.

This is on top of 88,830 foreigners who had entered the country illegally and have been classified under the Immigration’s Kes Tanpa Izin.

An unusual cluster of 210 Malaysians were also placed under this category which, according to Ibrahim, had referred to those who have been identified by the Home Ministry as having been involved in activities involving illegal foreign workers.

Several other categories were criminally-linked, including those under police observation (15,699 cases) and for drug-related charges (7,673 cases) or crime (5,090 cases).

There were also 4,953 Malaysians barred from overseas travel for violating Customs regulations.

To find out if you are barred from travelling abroad, one needs only to enter the MyKad number on the department’s travel status check portal at http://sspi2.imi.gov.my/

“If they have been barred, they must be present in person at the nearest Immigration passport and security division, where they will be told why they are not allowed to leave.

“This is to avoid identity abuse by a third party as we do not want private information to be divulged to an impostor,” Ibrahim said.
Immigration entrydenied
Almost 85,000 PTPTN study loan defaulters barred from leaving Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: Almost 85,000 National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) recipients have been barred from leaving the country to date.

PTPTN chief executive officer Agos Cholan said the corporation had to resort to barring the defaulters from leaving because they had been ignoring repeated reminders to repay their loans.

He said the corporation would send borrowers a reminder to begin repaying their loans six months after graduation.

“If there is no payment after two months, the first notice would be sent,” he said.

This, he added, is followed subsequently by a second and third notice if there was still no repayment.

Agos said after this, the corporation would send a legal notice and subsequently blacklist the borrowers.

To lift the travel ban, Agos said they would need to make some payment immediately, depending on their income.

“They would also need to sign papers committing to pay monthly instalments and arrange for a bank’s standing instruction or salary deductions. Restructuring is allowed if they wish to vary instalment amount,” he said.

Agos said the number had reduced from some 130,000 in 2007 who were barred.

Since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s announcement that borrowers could expect a 20% discount if they repay their loans in full by March 31 next year, Agos said there had been a few enquiries on the dates.

Najib, when tabling Budget 2015 last Friday, said borrowers who were unable to do so could still get a 10% off their loans if they made continuous payments for 12 months until Dec 31, 2015.

Borrowers were given similar discounts under the Budget 2013.

The travel ban is also imposed on 277,693 Malaysians listed under the Insolvency Department for failing to settle their debts.

Tax defaulters are also on the blacklist, with 135,111 persons named by the Inland Revenue Board.

Another 32,516 Malaysians who have violated laws in foreign countries, including overstaying, have also been barred from leaving the country.

Also blacklisted are 115,803 foreigners who have overstayed in Malaysia.

Immigration’s security and passport division director Ibrahim Abdullah told The Star that as long as a person was on the blacklist, they would not be allowed to pass the Immigration checkpoint, even if they have a valid flight ticket.

“It doesn’t matter if you are planning to leave by flight, rail, road or sea,” he told The Star.

The report added that the travel ban will also be imposed on those with outstanding Employees Provident Fund issues, including those who had failed to file their EPF contributions. A total of 10,219 Malaysians and 532 foreigners are listed under this category.

Meanwhile, The Star also reported PTPTN chief executive officer Agos Cholan as saying that they had to resort to barring the study loan defaulters from leaving the country as they had ignored repeated reminders to repay their loans.

Agos had also reportedly said that to lift the travel ban, defaulters would need to make some payment immediately, with the amount determined by their income. – October 14, 2014.

Source: The Star/Asia News Network

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Home, sweet home for young couples will lead to housing industry boon in M’sia


A NEW Youth Housing Scheme has been set up by the Government to help young couples, whose household income does not exceed RM10,000, buy their first home.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the maximum 35-year loan offered a funding limit not exceeding RM500,000 for married youth, aged between 25 and 40 years old.

“The Government will provide monthly financial assistance of RM200 to borrowers for the first two years to reduce the burden of monthly instalments,” he said.

Najib described the scheme as a smart partnership between the Government, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Cagamas.

The Government will also give a 50% stamp duty exemption on the instrument of transfer and loan agreements, as well as 10% loan guarantee to enable borrowers to obtain full financing, including cost of insurance.

Borrowers can also withdraw from their EPF Account 2 to top up their monthly instalment and other related costs.

“I urge the youth to grab this opportunity which is offered on first-come-first-served basis for 20,000 units only,” he said.

To address the issue of home ow­­nership at affordable prices, RM1.3bil will be allocated to build 80,000 units under the 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA).

To enable more people to own houses, under the scheme, the cei­ling of household income has been raised from RM8,000 to RM10,000.

“In addition, a Rent-To-Own Scheme will be introduced specifically for individuals who are unable to obtain bank financing,” he said.

RM644mil will be allocated to the National Housing Department (JPN) to build 26,000 units under the People’s Housing Programme (PPR).

He said Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB) would build 12,000 units of Rumah Mesra Rakyat, 5,000 units of Rumah Idaman Rakyat and 20,000 units of Rumah Aspirasi Rakyat on privately-owned land.

For first-time house buyers, the Government has agreed to extend the 50% stamp duty exemption and increase the purchase limit from RM400,000 to RM500,000.

Exemption will be given until Dec 31, 2016.

The minimum eligibility for hou­sing loans will be increased from RM80,000 to RM120,000 while the maximum eligibility limit will be increased from RM450,000 to RM600,000.

The RM100 application processing fee for housing loan will be abo­lished.

The Government will improve the1Malaysia Civil Servants’ Housing (PPA1M) by reducing the minimum price of houses currently at RM150,000 to RM90,000 per unit.

He added that the qualifying requirement of household income for this would be increased from RM8,000 to RM10,000 per month.

Housing industry boon

PETALING JAYA: Measures under Budget 2015 will positively impact the housing industry, especially in promoting home ownership among the lower and middle income group, said the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda).

The association supported the Government’s effort to raise the ceiling of household income from RM8,000 to RM10,000 for PR1MA homes and the Rent-To-Own scheme to help those unable to obtain financing, said Rehda president Datuk Seri FD Iskandar.

He said Rehda also lauded the new Youth Housing Scheme which would “certainly benefit young couples who wish to own a home.”

He said the 10% loan guarantee to enable borrowers to obtain full financing and the RM200 monthly financial aid would help reduce the burden of borrowers.

HBA secretary-general Chang Kim Loong also said the housing scheme for young married couples was commendable.

However Chang said providing the RM200 subsidy, in the first two-years, may send a wrong message.

He said borrowers may start to spend beyond their means and might end up in financial difficulty after the subsidy ends.

Chang said the Government must also ensure eligible first time house buyers actually stay in these units and not rent it out.

Chang said HBA supported the move to build more affordable housing but wanted these homes to reach the right target market. “These homes must be built at the right place and reasonable prices of between RM150,000 to RM300,000; and not more than RM400,000 in prime locations,” he said.

By Neville Spykerman The Star/Asia News Network

‘First-time house-buyers will spur property market’

GEORGE TOWN: First-time housebuyers are sure to spur the property market following the introduction of the Youth Housing Scheme.

International Real Estate Federation Malaysia vice-president Michael Geh said the scheme announced under Budget 2015 will help them to own property costing less than RM500,000.

He said the property market had been “cool” for the past six months since the developers interest-bearing scheme was abolished, resulting in many first-time buyers unable to obtain bank loans.

“The scheme shows our Government is well aware of the plight faced by this group.

“It will certainly spur the property market,” he said.

The scheme, a smart partnership between the Government, Bank Simpanan Nasional, Employees Provident Fund and Cagamas, is offered on a first-come first-served basis for 20,000 units only.

It offers a funding limit for a first home not exceeding RM500,000 for married couples between 25 and 40 years old with a household income not exceeding RM10,000. The maximum loan period is 35 years.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter said that the RM89bil from tourism targeted under Budget 2015 was an ambitious figure.

Its chairman Khoo Boo Lim said the RM316mil allocation for various programmes under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture should be used wisely to ensure good returns.

By Tan Sin Chow AND Chong Kah Yuan The Star/Asia News Network

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Chinese language advantage and education in M’sia; Don’t turn it into a political tool!


Chinese vernacular schools

It is bewildering that vernacular schools should be made the scapegoat for race relation issues in this country when our greatest asset is our multi-racial society, which puts us above our Asean neighbours in competing for the economic pie.

MY father sent me and my two elder brothers to study at the St Xavier’s Institution in Penang because he felt we all needed a good education in an English-medium school.

My eldest brother studied at a Chinese school and did not fare well. It was enough for my dad to be convinced that we should all be in a missionary school.

My father Wong Soon Cheong spoke fluent Malay with a thick northern accent and had taught himself to read and write English while he improved his command of Chinese.

Like many Chinese in his time, and even now, they knew that the key to success was education, and the best education facilities were found in the English-medium schools.

When I entered Year 1 in 1968, England was still the economic powerhouse of Europe, and mastering the Queen’s English would be the passport to a brighter future.

Fast forward to 2014 – the economic balance has shifted. China has become a superpower and besides being the biggest producer of just about anything, it is also the biggest market for anyone from anywhere wanting to sell anything.

My biggest regret now is that because I am a product of the English-medium system, I am unable to speak or write in Chinese. The dialects I am able to use, the smattering of Hokkien and Cantonese, is of little value in mainland China.

Anyone who wants to do business in China needs to speak Mandarin. It’s as simple as that, and this writer will be shoved out of the door if he cannot go beyond the initial greetings.

Even in Kuala Lumpur, I would never be employed in any company that has business dealings with China. This is not discrimination as, in the business world, my linguistic handicap cannot be ignored.

By the time my daughter had to be enrolled in a primary school, the scenario had changed. There were no more English-medium schools and the national schools were no longer the first choice for many Chinese parents. They were not only concerned about the quality of education but everyone also knew by then – that was in 1998 – that China would be the country to watch.

This, of course, led to many households being rather mixed up as the English-speaking parents had to grapple with their children being schooled in Chinese.

But it was a simple economic decision, nothing more than that. Most of us had no relatives in China and certainly no political sentiments whatsoever towards China.

As someone who spent all his years in the then English-medium school, I had no affiliation for many things Chinese. I am what many would call a “yellow banana” – a yellow-skinned Chinese but one who is white-hearted. But the global future of China was there for all to see.

When my daughter went to England to do her A-Levels, her school had a full class of students from different nationalities wanting to sit for the Chinese language examination. The school appointed the best teacher to teach the class. Such was the importance it placed on its students acquiring the language skills.

My daughter left for England before the SPM but she returned to Kuala Lumpur to sit for the examination. We wanted to make sure that she cleared this examination and also get a credit in Bahasa Malaysia, which is necessary if she wants to be a lawyer in Malaysia.

Her school in the United Kingdom frowned on her taking leave of absence to take the SPM. After all, how she fared in the BM paper (she got a distinction) would have no bearing on her ongoing studies for the A-Levels.

The Chinese can be described as being very practical people, and we needed to cover all our bases.

The fact is that 90% of Chinese parents today send their children to Chinese primary schools in Malaysia, and that 15% of students studying at the nearly 1,300 Chinese primary schools in the country are non-Chinese.

Even my personal driver, an Indian, sent his daughter to a Chinese primary school. It must have been tough for the parents but she speaks Mandarin fluently, besides Bahasa Malaysia, English and Tamil. It will certainly benefit her in the long run.

Schools in the UK, the bastion of Anglo-Saxon culture, know the global economic value of Chinese. They are making plans to ensure that their children study Chinese so that they won’t be left out.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has been quoted as saying that all students in the UK should study Chinese.

Johnson, who is studying Chinese himself, reportedly suggested that Britons should be learning as much as possible about China, as the East Asian giant continues to expand its global influence.

He said the children would grow up naturally knowing about China’s importance. When quizzed on whether they should also learn Chinese as a standard subject in schools, he told the Press Association: “Why not? Absolutely. My kids are learning it, so why not? Definitely, definitely.”

The mayor told the press he was learning Chinese “from the beginning” as he showed the journalists a folder on which he had written the words “Middle Kingdom” or “China” in the language. He told university students in Beijing that his 16-year-old daughter was learning Chinese and was due to visit China.

Singapore is often used as an example of a nation, despite its Chinese majority population, not having Chinese primary schools. The fact is that every Singaporean has to be schooled in English, and then it is compulsory for them to be schooled in their mother tongue. With special permission, they can also take up an extra subject in one another’s mother tongue languages.

Chinese is therefore a compulsory subject for Chinese students in Singapore while the non-Chinese can choose Malay or Tamil as options. English is a compulsory subject to pass over there.

Now we come to the point I am leading to – why is there a need for anyone to suggest that Chinese and Tamil schools be closed down, supposedly because they are the source of disunity in this country?

It is bewildering that vernacular schools should be made the scapegoat for race relation issues in this country.

I do not think anyone would be so naïve and simplistic, especially politicians, as to actually believe that by abolishing these schools, all the problems will disappear.

Many mono-ethnic countries are highly divisive even though they have the same language, religion or culture, particularly in Eastern Europe and parts of Africa.

Our biggest problem is not whether we are using Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, English or Tamil to teach – we should be worried over the falling quality of education in our schools and in universities.

We should be losing sleep that 70% of our teachers teaching English actually failed in the competency tests.

And why isn’t anyone worried that our public universities have still not made it into the top-ranked universities in the world?

Or why our students, despite their string of distinctions, are now not getting into Ivy League universities in the United States.

Mandarin, in fact, isn’t enough. We should all be able to speak Arabic because the richest countries are in the Middle East. With so many Arab tourists visiting Malaysia, are there enough Arab-speaking tour guides?

Malaysia’s greatest asset is its multi-racial society, which puts us above our Asean neighbours in competing for the economic pie.

The Mandarin speakers can penetrate markets in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Malay speakers can look after Indonesia, the biggest market in the Asean region, and the Malaysian Indians can make their mark in India. When we work together, we can become very powerful. We should make full use of our combined strength.

Languages are assets, not liabilities. I understand that there are those who believe that only a single-stream school system would unite our young.

Those who called for the closure of Chinese schools should talk to the parents of non-Malay students who study in such schools. Can our politicians just listen and not talk for just a moment, so perhaps they can learn something?

Walk around these schools, see the facilities, check out how discipline is instilled or why parents are called up by the school authorities when their children do not do well.

Certainly, the history of Communist China is not taught there. Neither is anyone brainwashed into voting for the DAP if that’s what the suspicions are all about. The national schools in predominantly Malay Kelantan and Terengganu are the same elsewhere and yet, many of the parents and school leavers have always voted strongly for PAS. Would these schools be regarded as a source of disunity and anti-establishment?

The English-medium schools in my time were regarded as neutral ground, where children of all races came together. But that’s history and our country’s standard of English has taken a free fall since then.

And for the record, before I am accused of being a racist, I wish to emphasise that I voluntarily studied Malay Literature and Islamic History in Sixth Form. When I went to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, I signed up for courses at the Malay Letters Department.

The Islamic Civilization course at UKM is compulsory and I have written many times that fears expressed by some non-Muslim politicians about this course, which they wrongly claimed as a religious indoctrination course, are unwarranted and silly.

We must never be afraid of quality education and the study of multiple languages. How many of our elite politicians send their children to private or international schools in Malaysia or even to the UK or Australia? Some even pack them off to study at the secondary school level overseas, despite telling ordinary Malaysians to study in our schools.

This debate on vernacular schools should not go any further. We have bigger problems ahead to worry about, like the cost of living, the inflationary hike and the weak market sentiments. We are all in the same boat together.

By Wong Chun Wai on the beat The Star/Asia News Network

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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MCA Youth chief laments missed scholarship

KUALA LUMPUR: In an emotional personal account, MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon (pic) shared how he was denied a scholarship despite getting all A’s in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), but he did not give up.

He said he joined MCA and Bari­san Nasional, which he believed defended the rights of all races.

Chong, who was born in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, told delegates at the 50th MCA Youth annual general assembly that he had many Malay and Indian friends at school and they would skip classes and go to the waterfall together.

However, despite getting straight A’s in the SPM, Chong said he was not given any scholarship and had to pursue Form 6 studies.

“There was no other choice since I didn’t come from a rich family.

MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon<< MCA Youth chief Chong Sin Woon

“When I discovered my Malay friends received Mara scholarships or places at matriculation programmes due to the quota system at that time, my life changed.

“Am I not a Malaysian too? I, too, studied hard. But I didn’t give up and went to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia to study economics.

“I joined the MCA as I believe in the Barisan formula, which is to defend all communities in Malay­sia. This is a party that cares for all,” he said to applause from the audience.

Chong, a senator, received a standing ovation from delegates for his impassioned speech which touched on matters such as vernacular schools, race relations and the spirit of the Barisan coalition.

He stressed that the existence of Chinese and Tamil schools was not an obstacle to national unity.

“Nobody should challenge the rights of the Chinese and Indian communities to learn their mother tongue at vernacular schools.

“If we view the matter objectively, Chinese education is no longer solely about the Chinese community alone. Non-Chinese students studying in SJK (C) schools nationwide now comprise 12% of the total number of students,” he said.

Chong also called for Barisan to return to its founding principles, which was nationalism for all races.

“When MCA founder Tun Tan Cheng Lock talked about nationalism, it was for a Malayan nationalism; not for a Chinese type of nationalism. It was never about nationalism for one race. I believe that if Barisan goes back to the foundation laid by our founders, the rakyat will return to support us,” he said.

Chong also thanked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for allocating RM50mil for Chinese primary schools and RM25mil for conforming schools in the Budget 2015.

“When we sang the Barisan Nasional party song earlier in the assembly, a line in the lyrics says Barisan is for all races and that touched me,” he said.

He lamented that every now and then, there seemed to be comments made by others that hurt the feelings of the Chinese and Indians by labelling them as pendatang (foreigners), penumpang (passengers) and even kaum penceroboh (trespassers).

“Wasn’t independence achieved 57 years ago as a result of all the main races in the country?

“Wasn’t the first thing that Tunku Abdul Rahman did upon returning to the country after dealing with the British was to meet with MCA president Tun Tan Cheng Lock?

“Didn’t MCA give its support to the Government in cracking down on the communists who disturbed the country’s peace in the 1960s?” Chong asked.

- The Star/Asia News Network

 Umno logoUmno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

PETALING JAYA: An MCA leader has cautioned a divisional Umno official against “crossing the line” in suggesting that next month’s Umno annual general assembly should discuss ending the Chinese vernacular school system.

MCA religious harmony bureau chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker said that Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad should accept with an open heart the reminder that he gave him as it was in good faith.

“It is in my interest to caution politicians like Azli who are out to score political brownie points by picking on Chinese education, Chinese culture and who want to use the community as a ‘punching bag’,” he said.

“I did not overreact or become too emotional and I had merely cautioned a fellow comrade in Barisan Nasional not to cross the line,” Ti said, referring to a statement by Azli yesterday in which he denied that his suggestion was seditious.

Azli had said Ti lacked an understanding of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution on the position of the Malay language as well as other vernacular languages.

He said Ti and his colleagues should confront Pakatan Rakyat which had abused vernacular schools by using it as a political platform to brainwash the young to hate the Government.

Ti said that Azli could have expressed his misgivings in a constructive manner.

“The way he chose to react is not going to take the nation anywhere but is going to destroy the very foundation of our religious and racial harmony.”

“Our forefathers have already established the foundation of religious and cultural harmony in Malaysia and there are certain lines that we should not cross,” he said.

Ti said Azli had also wrongly accused him of lodging a police report on the matter.

It was MCA Youth, said Ti, that had lodged a report because they felt that Azli’s comment had breached Section 505 of the Penal Code which criminalises statements inciting communal ill-will.

Ti said Azli should stop being a “loose cannon” and urged him to focus on bigger issues that required their joint effort and attention. – The Star/Asia News Network

Umno’s Mohamad Azli cautioned over statement

PETALING JAYA: An MCA leader has cautioned a divisional Umno official against “crossing the line” in suggesting that next month’s Umno annual general assembly should discuss ending the Chinese vernacular school system.

MCA religious harmony bureau chief Datuk Ti Lian Ker said that Petaling Jaya Utara Umno division deputy chief Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad should accept with an open heart the reminder that he gave him as it was in good faith.

“It is in my interest to caution politicians like Azli who are out to score political brownie points by picking on Chinese education, Chinese culture and who want to use the community as a ‘punching bag’,” he said.

“I did not overreact or become too emotional and I had merely cautioned a fellow comrade in Barisan Nasional not to cross the line,” Ti said, referring to a statement by Azli yesterday in which he denied that his suggestion was seditious.

Azli had said Ti lacked an understanding of Article 152 of the Federal Constitution on the position of the Malay language as well as other vernacular languages.

He said Ti and his colleagues should confront Pakatan Rakyat which had abused vernacular schools by using it as a political platform to brainwash the young to hate the Government.

Ti said that Azli could have expressed his misgivings in a constructive manner.

“The way he chose to react is not going to take the nation anywhere but is going to destroy the very foundation of our religious and racial harmony.”

“Our forefathers have already established the foundation of religious and cultural harmony in Malaysia and there are certain lines that we should not cross,” he said.

Ti said Azli had also wrongly accused him of lodging a police report on the matter.

It was MCA Youth, said Ti, that had lodged a report because they felt that Azli’s comment had breached Section 505 of the Penal Code which criminalises statements inciting communal ill-will.

Ti said Azli should stop being a “loose cannon” and urged him to focus on bigger issues that required their joint effort and attention. – The Star/Asia News Network

HOW ELSE CAN UMNO SURIVIVE? Don’t turn Chinese schools into political tool !

Umno logo

Umno Petaling Jaya Utara division deputy head Mohamad Azli Mohemed Saad accused Chinese primary schools of becoming hotbed for the opposition to spread racial and anti-government sentiments and thus, suggested that the Umno general assembly next month should discuss closing down Chinese primary schools.

Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali Al Habshee reiterated the call to abolish Chinese vernacular schools, claiming that the multi-stream education system was a breeding ground for racial discord.

Although the remarks are absurd, they are still supported by the Peninsular Malay Students Federation (GPMS) and Malay rights group Perkasa, reflecting the arrogant attitude and narrow thinking of some Umno members.

It is not uncommon to see politicians manipulate Chinese education issues to gain political capital.

However, remarks unfavourable to Chinese education have become increasingly intense in recent years.

From former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mohd Noor Abdullah’s suggestion of including Chinese education into the national school curriculum which teaches all languages to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Razali Ibrahim’s remarks calling for no more request to build Chinese primary schools and now, Azli’s remarks to abolish Chinese primary schools. Apparently, they are not isolated cases.

Singularism has been lingering in Umno and it is harmful to Umno, as well as Barisan Nasional.

It could even destroy national unity. Worse, advanced and more competitive countries have encouraged their people to master multiple languages in this era of globalisation, but our politicians are still embracing extreme singularism.

It is worrisome whether Malaysia can really turn into a developed country.

Chinese primary schools are an important part of the national education system.

Their teachers, syllabuses and teaching materials are all in line with the Education Ministry’s curriculum. Just like national primary schools, the syllabuses of Chinese primary schools promote racial harmony and instilling loyalty, as well as patriotism.

It is shameful for politicians to make accusations out of nothing and frame Chinese primary schools as a hotbed of anti-government sentiments, just to gain political capital.

Article 152(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution clearly stated that ‘”no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language”.

Moreover, among the current 600,000 Chinese primary school pupils, 15%, or 80,000 are non-Chinese.

The figure shows that Chinese primary schools are not a stumbling block to national unity, but schools cultivating national talents and attracting pupils of various races.

It is always the time for raising sensitive issues before the annual Umno general assembly is convened.

Some people try to act like a hero while some people make trouble, with different intentions.

But the acts of stirring racial issues have always gotten on the nerves of Chinese community. This time, its grassroots leaders made Chinese primary schools their target.

Apparently, there are other motives behind it, reflecting the internal power struggles in Umno and the approaching storm.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad criticised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his blog not long ago, declaring withdrawal of his support to Najib.

The move was like sending a clear message to Umno grassroots that they may openly challenge Najib during the general assembly in November.

Although he has stepped down, Dr Mahathir remains influential. The intention of pressuring Najib is obvious when his minions raise the “abolish Chinese primary schools” issue now.

The remarks made by Umno grassroots leaders, of course, cannot represent the government’s stand.
However, the “abolish Chinese primary schools” issue has touched on the sensitivities of the Chinese community, triggering resentment and indignation.

Najib and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, must not remain silent.

Instead, they should defend the status of Chinese primary schools to prevent the issue from getting out of hand. In addition, the authorities should also charge Azli and others who make such remarks with sedition, to set an example and eliminate extremist racial remarks.

Source:  mysinchew.com/malaysia-chronicle.com

Malaysian Tax Budget 2015 Highlights and Snapshots


Najib, who is Finance Minister, had presented his budget speech at 4pm in the Dewan Rakyat on October 10, 2014  Here are highlights:

 

 

While Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak described Budget 2015 as being a balance between the capital economy and people’s economy, analysts said the budget contained little to move markets either way.
This, according to analysts, should be a relief for a country where around 47% of the government’s bonds are held by foreigners.
“I would say probably largely a non-event from the market perspective,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore.
“It’s not highlighting anything new…but in many ways the lack of surprises is actually a good thing.”

* Najib announces the theme for this year’s budget as “Budget 2015: The People’s Economy”.

* The allocation for Budget 2015 is RM273.9 billion, an increase of RM9.8 billion from the last budget.

* Government aims to lower fiscal deficit to 3.0% in 2015 from an expected 3.5% this year

* Operating expenditure RM223.4 billion, development expenditure RM50.5 billion.

* Payments to civil servants of RM65.6 billion is largest operating expenditure item.

*Federal government revenue collection estimated at RM235.2 billion in 2015, an increase of RM10.2 billion from 2014.

* From an economic perspective, when we achieved independence 57 years ago, we developed the country based on agriculture before progressing to a modern industrialised economy. Next, we moved into the upper-middle income phase. We are now moving towards a services-based economy.

* In brief, the objectives, principles and thrusts of the three Outline Perspective Plans, 10th Malaysia Plan, New Economic Policy, National Development Policy, National Vision Policy and since 2010, the National Transformation Policy, have all focused on poverty eradication, increasing income and restructuring of society. This is with the aim to achieve socio-economic goals; diversify the commodity-based economy; human capital development; enhancing competitiveness of the public and private sectors; higher value chain; inclusive development; as well as transformation of the government, economy, social and politics.

* Clearly, our former leaders in their wisdom have carried out responsibilities to develop Malaysia in their own mould. The struggle started with Tunku Abdul Rahman, followed by Tun Abdul Razak who had implemented development and restructured society, to Tun Hussein Onn who maintained peace and unity. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad modernised the country while Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi emphasised human capital development.

* Further, the present Government is committed to driving growth with a broader approach to place Malaysia on a strong foundation.

* This is my sixth budget since I assumed leadership of the administration, and the country’s 56th budget. The 2015 Budget completes the 10th Malaysia Plan.

* Further, in May 2015, the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) will be launched. At the same time, a new approach known as the Malaysian National Development Strategy (MyNDS) is being formulated.

* MyNDS will be a key basis to planning and preparation of programmes and projects under 11MP. The emphasis is on using limited resources optimally, with focus on high-impact projects and programmes at low cost as well as efficient and rapid implementation. This means Budget 2016 will be the trigger to the final five years of Malaysia’s progress to a high-income advanced economy by 2020.

* Many countries such as Korea, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and China began their economic progress based on agriculture and have since moved to an economy that emphasises high level of knowledge, skills, innovation and expertise.

* To remain resilient and competitive, Malaysia must move to an economy based on knowledge, high skills, expertise, creativity and innovation.

* Indeed, from the economic perspective, a rapidly developing country typically generates wealth through capital economy activities. However, the rakyat voice their grievances and complaints through blogs, letters, meetings, interviews and dialogues over the millions spent, billions allocated and various mega projects questioning the benefits to the people.

* In 2015, with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) government revenue is estimated at RM23.2 billion. However, as a caring government, we have exempted several goods from GST amounting to RM3.8 billion.

* With the implementation of GST, the Sales and Services Tax (SST), will be abolished resulting in revenue foregone of RM13.8 billion. This means that after deducting RM13.8 billion and RM3.8 billion from a revenue of RM23.2 billion, the Government will have a balance of RM5.6 billion.

* Of the total, RM4.9 billion is channelled back to the people through assistance programmes such as the increase in Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M). Finally, net revenue collection from GST will only amount to RM690 million.

* Goods and Services Tax (GST) : RON95 petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) exempted from GST.

* Revenue from GST in 2015 estimated at RM23.2 billion.

* Exemption of GST on several goods amounting to RM3.8 billion.

* Abolishment of SST will see RM13.8 billion in revenue forgone.

* Net revenue collection from GST will only amount to RM690 million.

* Establish another 20 KR1M in Peninsular Malaysia.

* Set up price watch team comprising consumer associations.

* Strengthen GST Enforcement Unit with 2,270 personnel, Price Monitoring Unit with 1,300 personnel and Consumer Squads with 202,800 volunteers as well as involve 579 mukim and village heads.

* Electricity consumption not subject to GST increased from the first 200 units to 300 units, move to benefit 70% of households.

* Income Tax: Income tax rates to be cut by one to three percentage points. Families with monthly income of less than RM4,000 will not have to pay tax

* From 2016, the corporate tax rate will be reduced by one percentage point from 25% to 24%, and for small and medium sized enterprises to 19% from 20%.

* Infrastructure: LRT3 linking Bandar Utama, Shah Alam and Klang: RM9 billion

* 45-km second MRT line from Selayang to Putrajaya: RM23 bilionThe subsidies rationalisation will continue, Najib said today. – The Malaysian Insider graphics by Heza Kamaruddin, October 10, 2014.The subsidies rationalisation will continue, Najib said today. – The Malaysian Insider graphics by Heza Kamaruddin, October 10, 2014.

* Upgrade of East Cost railway: RM150 million

* 36-km East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE): RM1.6 billion

* 47-km Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Expressway: RM4.2 billion

* Subsidies: Government plans to reduce the overall bill for subsidies and cash assistance by 7% to RM37.7 billion in 2015 from RM40.6 billion in 2014.

* Govenment will reform the petroleum subsidy regime soon, to adopt a system that benefits the lower income group.

* Highspeed Broadband: Total of RM2.7 billion will be spent over the next three years to build 1,000 new telecommunications towers and laying of undersea cables.

* Property: Budget extends 50% stamp duty exemption for first time home buyers and increases the purchase limit from RM400,000 to RM500,000. The exemption will be given until the end of 2016.

* A 10% loan guarantee to enable borrowers to obtain full financing including cost of insurance. Borrowers can also withdraw from EPF Account 2 to top up their monthly installment and other related costs.

* This guarantee is offered on a “first come, first served basis’ for 20,000 units only.

* Ceiling of household income for PR1MA homes increased to RM10,000, RM1.3 billion to be allocated to build 80,000 units PR1MA homes.

* Education: RM325 million to be allocated for the 1Malaysia Book Voucher Programme, benefitting about 1.3 million students.

* RM100 schooling assistance to all 5.4 million primary and secondary students to continue.

* A total of RM1.2 billion will be allocated to increase student intake in vocational colleges and community colleges as well as upgrading colleges.

* RM1.05 billion allocated to develop and maintain education facilities, and for school upgrade programmes.

* RM3 billion allocated for education sponsorship via the Public Service Dept (JPA) , Education Ministry and Health Ministry.

* RM30 millon fund set up for training and technical assistance of youth from low income Indian families.

* Health: Tax relief for medical expenses and treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure and heart attack increased to RM6,000 per year.

* 30 more 1Malaysia clinics and a health clinic in Cyberjaya will be built. The Government will station 30 doctors in these clinics.

* Sports: An allocation of RM103 million to implement a Sporting Nation Blueprint.

* Identify sports talent starting from primary school through Malaysian Talent Identification programme. The programme involves testing, screening and talent specialisation among students.

* Improve the quality of high-performance sports for six selected fields in the first phase – Football, Cycling, Badminton, Sepak Takraw, Swimming and Athletics.

* Public transportation: Provide intercity bus services to those residing outside Kuala Lumpur (KL) but work in KL. The service will be offered with a discounted monthly fare of 30%. For a start, three bus routes will be operational namely the Rawang-KL, Klang-KL and Seremban-KL.

* Provide Electric Train Service (ETS) for Ipoh-Butterworth route starting April 2015.

* Upgrade stage bus services in several states through a contracting system with existing bus companies. The programme will be implemented in phases in Kuching, Ipoh, Seremban, Kuala Terengganu and Kangar.

* Tourism: RM316 million set aside for various programmes under Tourism and Culture Ministry.

* Entrepreneurship: In 2015, TEKUN to provide additional funds of RM500 million, of which RM350 million allocated for Bumiputera entrepreneurs, Young Indian Entrepreneurs Financing Scheme (RM50 million), Young Professional Women Entrepreneurs Development Programme (RM50 million), and Armed Forces Veteran Entrepreneur Development Programme (RM50 million).

* Soft loans totalling RM50 million for SME entrepreneurs from Chinese community, and RM30 million for hawkers and petty traders.

* To attract more expatriate entrepreneurs establish startups in Malaysia, the paid-up capital for startups is set at RM75,000.

* Eligible expatriate startup entrepreneurs will be given work pass for one year.

* Additional allocation of RM30 million to entrepreneurs under programme Skim Usahawan Permulaan Bumiputera (Superb), with participation to be enlarged to include East Malaysian entrepreneurs.

* RM30 million to be allocated through Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia, to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship among Indian women.

* BR1M for those earning RM3,000 and below will be increased to RM950 from RM650.

* For those earning RM3,000 to RM4,000, BR1M increased to RM750 (from RM450).

* For the above two categories, payment will be made in three instalments – January, May and September.

* For those aged 21 and above, with income not exceeeding RM2,000, BR1M increased to RM350 (from RM300) in one-off payment early next year.

* Civil service: Half-month bonus to all civil servants with a minimum payment of RM500 to be paid in January 2015.

* Pensioners to receive special financial assistance of RM250.

* Women now represent only 38% of the total workforce in the country. To enhance the contribution of women in national development, women’s opportunities to return to the workplace via 1Malaysia Support for Housewife.

* The government will help also professional women return to the workplace via Program Women Career Comeback.

* Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will get RM2.26 billion to enhance contribution of women.

* Student loans: For students with an outstanding amount in their PTPTN loans, a 20% discount will be given if they make a total repayment of their loan, on or before March 31, 2015.

* NGOs: A one-off grant of RM50 million to creditable NGOs, including uniformed bodies that are involved in community development programmes, unity, social welfare, consumerism, health and security.

* National security: RM17.7 billion allocated to Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, RM9.1 bil to the PDRM, and RM804 mil to Maritime Enforcement Agency Malaysia to strengthen maritime enforcement.

* RM660 million allocated for Eastern Sabah Security Zone for increased security.

* A sum of RM117 million will be allocated to strengthen the role of RELA under the Ministry of Home Affairs for training and capacity building. – October 10, 2014.

‘Goodies’ not enough to offset rising living costs, say consumer groups

Despite more cash handouts, lower income tax and a multitude of items exempt from the goods and services tax (GST), consumer groups said Budget 2015 was not enough to offset rising living costs for Malaysians.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) CEO Datuk Paul Selvaraj said consumers would still had to pay a premium for housing as well as petrol because of the lack of public transport.

He also said the lack of government enforcement would give rise to profiteering once the GST was implemented April next year at a rate of 6%.

“It looks like the government has taken certain measures to minimise the impact of GST, many are zero-rated, while there is no tax on petrol.

“But our concern is profiteering. I am concerned that sellers will take advantage of the GST and increase the actual price, so zero-rated items will be sold at inflated prices,” Selvaraj told The Malaysian Insider.

“We feel that all items should be labelled – what is zero-rated and what is taxed. The government should also set up a hotline for consumers to turn to if they are unhappy with their purchase.”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced yesterday when tabling the budget that the GST was expected to raise RM23.2 billion in revenue. But RM3.8 billion in zero-rated goods would be deducted from this amount.

Selvaraj also said that despite petrol prices having gone up from last week’s subsidy cut, the government did not address alternatives for the rakyat to wean them off their fuel dependency.

On October 2, the government reduced the fuel subsidy of the RON95 petrol and diesel by 20 sen. Petrol now costs RM2.30 a litre compared with RM2.10, while diesel costs RM2.20 compared with RM2 previously.

“The bus system is not being addressed, and it’s to the point that there is no choice for the ordinary people except to rely on their cars to commute.”

Another issue for the average consumers, said Selvaraj, was housing, with homes either being beyond their means or located too far from the city centre that they would have to pay a premium on petrol for their daily commute.

“There have been many efforts to create affordable housing, but the government hasn’t done enough to make it difficult for speculators to enter the market. The market should have stronger regulators.”

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said he was sceptical that prices would go down once the GST was implemented, despite the long list of exempted items, including RON95 petrol, diesel, noodles, coffee and tea.

“Even if those are exempt, input cost will go up. Transport cost, the cost of raw materials… in the end, you will still pay more,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

“CAP has never agreed with the GST because we say it’s a regressive tax. They should have implemented the more progressive inheritance tax.”

Mohamed also shrugged off the government’s decision to lower income tax by one to three percentage points, noting that this would not benefit the lower-income groups who did not make enough to qualify for income tax.

“We’re talking about only rich consumers benefitting from this. Can you imagine how many millionaires will now be taxed even less? They should have introduced different income tax rates instead.”

He added that the government made a mistake in not implementing the sin tax, noting the economic and social costs alcohol and cigarette consumption had on Malaysians.

“The BR1M is not likely to offset extra costs. I don’t think anyone has done any research on how effective it is for the people. It’s just one-off,” he added, referring to the 1Malaysia People’s Aid cash vouchers.

Najib announced yesterday that BR1M for the lower-income group would be raised from RM650 to RM950 next year, while households earning between RM3,000 and RM4,000 a month would now receive RM750.

Single people aged 21 and above and not earning more than RM2,000 a month are entitled to BR1M worth RM350, an increase of RM50, said Najib.

Datuk Nadzim Johan, an activist from the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association, said BR1M should not be permanent.

“Our people are not able to appreciate it and we are afraid that it may not be used effectively. It is a liability,” he said.

Unlike the other consumer groups, Nadzim said the budget was too consumer-friendly to the point that it was counterproductive.

“For example, about 1,000 products are exempted from the GST, it’s almost like most products are not taxed. I also think the margin between the present tax and the new tax is too small.

“All in all, I feel that the budget is too soft and Malaysians can’t appreciate it. There shouldn’t be anything for consumers to complain about.” – October 11, 2014.

- The Malaysian Insiders

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Malaysia’s petrol price hike when global crude oil prices declined to 3 years low, a reflection of poor financial management..

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