Opposition lawmaker Chong Chieng Jen today questioned Prime Minister Najib Razak's claim that there would not be future tax hikes, even in the event of a sweeping BN victory in the coming Sarawak state election.
Chong, who is Sarawak DAP chairman, said unless more concrete affirmations are made in Parliament, Najib's promise that the goods and services tax (GST) would not be increased from its current six percent would not suffice.
"Can we trust Najib’s word? Before the 2013 election, he promised to abolish the Sedition Act, as the law is considered undemocratic and oppressive," he told reporters in Kuching today.
"Yet after 2013, you still see all the opposition leaders being queued up to be sued and charged under the Sedition Act. So can we trust him (Najib)?”
Chong, who is Bandar Kuching MP, said Najib had evaded earlier calls to make a declarative statement in Parliament, pledging not to increase the GST in the foreseeable future.
“He has yet to state clearly that he does not intend to increase the GST after the state election. It has to be stated clearly for a (defined) period. Five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? Twenty years?”
"We don't want him to raise taxes two, three or six months after the election after promising not to. The six percent is already a great burden on the people. Many people are suffering because of this tax,” Chong said.
In a visit to Kuching last Saturday, Najib had described any talk of future tax increases as opposition lies.
"We will maintain it at its current level," Najib was quoted by Bernama as saying.
Opposition leaders have criticised the tax hike for simultaneously pushing up the prices of goods and services, and dampening demand.
They have also charged that due to rampant corruption and massive capital flight, a further tax hike of up to 10 percent may be inevitable to cover the shortfall in energy revenues, should the oil market remain glutted.
The tax regime, implemented last April, met its one-year target of RM27 billion in March, and is expected to net a total of RM39 billion this year.
The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) reported that the new tax was deeply unpopular among consumers and private firms, with its consumer sentiment gauge dropping to 63.8 in January, the lowest on record.
Overall demand growth weakened to 5.1 percent from 5.9 percent a year ago, while the national headline inflation rate, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rose to 4.2 percent in February, the highest in seven years.