March 31st, 2015

The rot in the administration of the nation

OUTSPOKEN:  A government minister recently stated that the country's civil service is 1.6 million strong and was very proud of this fact.

It is not the numbers that matter but the quality. In fact the rapid increase in the civil service numbers makes it very unwieldy. Though many of the frontline services have seen dramatic improvements, the outsized bureaucracy is there for all to see. The public still face delays in their applications and when they enquire as to the state of their application or the status of their requests they get nowhere.

Things get bogged down with red tape due to the lack of proper coordination. Months go by. There is only uncertainty and frustration on the part of the public.

The administration moves with lackadaisical speed and nobody in the service bothers to untangle this culture. When the government presented the 2015 Budget, just a few months ago the strength of the civil service was 1.4 million. And now within weeks it has ballooned to 1.6 million. This is simply mind boggling.

It was stated that the wages of the civil servants for 2015 will take up RM65.6 billion or 24 percent of the total budget allocation. Thus money paid by the people as taxes will mean that for every ringgit, 24 sen will go to pay wages of civil servants.

It is not just the size of the government staff that is astonishing. Even the number of cabinet ministers surpasses all other countries that have a  population similar to that of Malaysia’s 30 million. The Prime Minister’s Office alone has ten cabinet ministers. On top of this there are innumerable contract personnel who are handsomely paid.

The latest disclosures that almost every single Umno Baru head elected or not is given some kind of government post are most revealing. This is not to enhance efficiency but as rewards for supporting the party and the government.

The revelation by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah that payment of RM50,000 for each Umno Baru division chief monthly would constitute 'robbery' of public funds. He was purportedly to have said that, “These days Umno divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands.”

And there is no mention of the contributions by these people nor are we told of their mettle and abilities.

Nowadays, almost everyone sports the Dr acronym in front of their names indicating that a Ph.D had been earned. But their quality and credibility do not befit their so-called academic standing, if it is genuine at all.

The government refuses to downsize the number of civil servants in the country for fear of losing votes. To them it is a vote bank that has to be built and nurtured. This is really a warped mentality. It is not in the interest of the people and country that matter but more to ensure the survival of the party in power. It is no wonder that the country is heading towards being the laughing stock in Asean.

Civil servants of old, when the country achieved independence, were people oriented. They were not afraid to say no to the political masters. They were then bound by government procedures in everything that they did. As long as the request by the political bosses met the provisions of the General and Financial Orders, then the request would be entertained. Otherwise, the political master would be told that his request did not meet the provisions of the GOs and FOs.

The civil servants may be shuttled around because of this but their pledge was to serve the nation and not the political masters.

It is a pity that the administrative service had given way to the politicians due to personal and vested interest. Naturally the quality had been compromised and it is a loss to the nation and the country.

The quality of the political leadership of the country has much to be desired. Judging from the various comments and statements made by cabinet ministers it goes to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are not cabinet material nor are they fit to be in the government at all and determining the fate of the nation.

There is not a single iota of intelligence among the ministers.

The country has lost an efficient and trustworthy government due to physical and mental corruption. And the worst part is, the man who is leading the country has no conscience at all about all this. Pity you, Malaysia!       Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a former press secretary to second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the writer of the book, "The Unmaking of Malaysia”.

GST: Belum dilaksana tetapi sudah dinilai; Kuasa sebenarnya 
di tangan pengguna

GST: Kuasa sebenarnya 
di tangan pengguna

OOH! Nak beli stok mekap sebelum GST.” Tulis seorang teman dalam status akaun Facebook (FB).




Surirumah yang bijak akan cuba memahami tentang Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan (GS T) yang bermula esok, termasuk mengambil tahu senarai barangan yang dikecualikan cukai baharu ini sebagai langkah berbelanja secara berhemat.

Dan seperti yang dikehendakinya, status itu menerima banyak Likes bahkan ramai yang turut memberi komen seperti, “Cepat, cepat... sebelum terlambat!”

Yang lagi turut tumpang sekaki memberi ‘idea’ barangan yang patut dibeli oleh teman FB penulis tadi. “Jangan lupa minyak wangi dan tuala wanita pun... saya dah beli stok untuk setahun.” Ada lagi menokok, “Books”.

Posting atau status akaun FB sebegini memang menarik dan cepat serta mudah mengundang reaksi ramai. Maklumlah GST atau Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan ini adalah isu yang boleh dianggap paling panas atau trending ketika ini.

Namun sejauhmanakah kita bertanggungjawab dengan status atau komen-komen yang dimuat naik di laman sosial itu?

Meneliti komen-komen yang dibuat oleh pengguna laman sosial menunjukkan ramai dalam kalangan kita rakyat Malaysia sebenarnya kurang arif mengenai GST namun berpura-pura faham dan berlagak pandai mengenai pelaksanaan cukai baharu itu.

Sekiranya kita mengambil masa membaca penerangan dan maklumat yang dikeluarkan oleh pihak berkuasa sama ada Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia (JKDM), Kementerian Kewangan mahupun Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Ne­geri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan (KPDNKK), sudah tentu kita tidak akan mengeluarkan komen-komen sedemikian. Bahkan kita akan merasa malu memberi komen yang me­nunjukkan kedangkalan kita sebagai pengguna.

Lebih malu lagi jika kita turut sama menyertai ‘kumpulan orang ramai’ yang dilaporkan sanggup berhimpit dan menyerbu pasar raya untuk berbelanja membeli barangan keperluan harian kerana bimbang para peniaga akan menaikkan harga barangan selepas pelaksanaan GST bermula esok.

Hakikatnya seperti yang telah diuar-uarkan oleh pihak berkuasa terbabit, kebanyakan barangan keperluan harian termasuk beras, minyak masak, ayam, daging, ikan, kopi, tepung, lada hitam, segala macam sos, mentol, susu formula untuk bayi, marjerin, segala jenis roti, sayur-sayuran dan buku – adalah barangan yang disenaraikan sebagai ‘zero ra­ted GST’ atau dengan kata mudahnya, tidak dikenakan GST.

Walaupun mekap atau kosmetik dan minyak wangi masih dikenakan GST, wanita Malaysia tidak patut bimbang kerana dengan cukai baharu itu, harga produk kecantikan dan haruman itu sepatutnya lebih rendah berbanding sebelum pelaksanaannya.

Ikut kira-kira mudah jika sebelum ini kita membeli bedak kompak atau gincu yang dikenakan Cukai Jualan (SST) 10 peratus, tentulah harganya akan lebih murah selepas 1 April ini kerana GST yang dikenakan hanya 6 peratus.

Mungkin ada yang skeptikal dan merasakan walau apa pun, kuasa menetapkan harga di tangan peniaga. Akhirnya yang untung peniaga, dan yang menanggung beban kenaikan harga ialah pengguna.

Betul. Peniaga ada kuasa untuk menaikkan harga. Namun kita sebagai pengguna juga mempunyai kuasa untuk menyemak harga dan melaporkan penyelewengan atau pencatutan jika ada kepada pihak berkuasa.

Antara mahu dengan tidak mahu sahaja!

Adakah kita mahu menjadi pengguna bijak atau pengguna yang ‘dipijak’, yang ‘merelakan’ diri ditindas oleh para peniaga yang tidak bertanggungjawab, yang hanya memikirkan keuntungan semata-mata.

Sebagai pengguna bijak, kita boleh sahaja menyemak se­narai barangan yang tidak dikenakan GST, mempersoalkannya jika ada peniaga yang masih menaikkan harga barangan berkenaan, atau jika enggan ‘bertekak’ memilih untuk tidak membeli daripada peniaga terbabit.

Sebagai pengguna yang lebih bijak, kita boleh memuat turun aplikasi MyKira GST yang disediakan secara percuma oleh Kastam ke dalam telefon bimbit dan menyemak harga setiap kali kita berbelanja. Aplikasi mudah ini membolehkan kita sebagai pengguna memasukkan maklumat barang untuk disemak harga semasa sama ada lebih tinggi daripada harga sebelum GST.

Dan lebih baik lagi, aplikasi cerdik ini membolehkan kita sebagai pengguna membuat aduan serta-merta sekiranya pekedai atau peniaga telah mengenakan caj berlebihan atau menaikkan harga sewenang-wenangnya atas alasan pelaksanaan GST.

Dengan aplikasi ini, pengguna sebenarnya mempunyai cara yang mudah untuk mengetahui sama ada mereka membayar lebih untuk sesuatu barangan itu berbanding sebelum GST dilaksanakan.

Pokok pangkalnya di tangan kita. Mahu menjadi pengguna bijak atau sebaliknya.

Adakah kita mahu terus-terusan ditipu peniaga? Apakah kita tidak kisah berebut-rebut membeli barang keperluan yang sebenarnya tidak dikenakan GST? Atau pun kita mahu termasuk dalam golongan pengguna yang menikmati faedah daripada pelaksanaannya?

Tepuk dada tanya selera!


Belum dilaksana tetapi sudah dinilai

ESOK sistem cukai baharu iaitu cukai barang dan perkhid­matan (GST) akan mula dikuatkuasakan di seluruh negara. Pelaksanaan GST dilihat telah menjadi satu fenomena yang luar biasa apabila rata-rata seluruh rakyat negara ini bercakap tentang cukai ini.

Rencana ini ditulis oleh 'pelambung' be eng ... puuiihh !

Orang ramai membeli barangan keperluan di Tesco Cheras, Kuala Lumpur
kelmarin sebelum pelaksanaan GST esok.

Cukai ini menarik minat dan perhatian khalayak apabila digembar gemburkan bakal meningkatkan harga barangan dan perkhidmatan sekaligus meningkatkan lagi kos sara hidup rakyat.

Ringkasnya dicanang cukai ini bakal menyusahkan dan membebankan rakyat.

Rentetan itu tindakan pihak kerajaan memperkenalkan GST terus mencetuskan pelbagai reaksi, spekulasi serta tuduhan dan juga fitnah. Walaupun pelbagai kempen, taklimat, sesi penerangan dan pencerahan dibuat oleh pihak berkaitan seperti kastam dan agensi serta kementerian yang terlibat namun keluh kesah dan kebimbangan dalam kalangan rakyat masih belum reda. Hal ini terjadi kerana ada pihak yang secara berte­rusan memanipulasi fakta.

Perkara ini dilihat banyak berlaku dalam media sosial secara agresif dan berterusan. Hampir setiap hari kita boleh baca pelbagai cerita dan maklumat yang tidak sahih dan mengelirukan disebarkan dalam facebook dan juga twitter untuk mengelirukan rakyat. Ini menyebabkan rakyat terus tertanya-tanya yang mana satu fakta dan maklumat sebenar tentang GST.

Apakah betul GST baik untuk masa depan rakyat dan negara? Apakah betul GST boleh menurunkan harga barangan dan perkhidmatan?

Apakah GST hanya menguntungkan peniaga dan kerajaan tetapi me­rugikan rakyat? Apakah peniaga akan mengambil kesempatan meningkatkan harga barangan dan perkhidmat­an? Ini adalah antara persoalan yang cukup popular yang terus bermain di minda setiap seorang daripada kita. Walaupun jawapan kepada persoalan ini mudah diperoleh jika kita meneliti info sebenar GST dari pihak berwajib namun angkara pihak yang tidak bertanggungjawab suka mencurah minyak ke dalam api menyebabkan pemikiran rakyat terus bercelaru.

Apa yang sedang berlaku sekarang pihak yang tidak bersetuju dengan GST ini, yang tidak dapat melihat kebaikannya dalam konteks yang lebih luas serta kebaikan jangka panjang kepada rakyat dan ekonomi negara terus mengelirukan masyarakat agar rakyat marah dan benci dengan tindakan kerajaan itu.

Ternyata kebanyakan daripada kita lebih kepada mendengar cakap-cakap orang, terlalu percaya kepada maklumat dalam media sosial serta terikut-ikut dengan cerita yang dibawa dan dicanangkan oleh satu pihak saja tanpa membuka mata dan minda untuk mengkaji sejauh mana segala tuduhan terbabit ada kebenaran di sebaliknya.

Bak kata pepatah Inggeris don’t judge a book by its cover. Dalam hal seperti ini kita perlu tolak jauh permainan emosi dan perasaan yang cuba ditanamkan oleh pihak tertentu yang mempunyai agenda politik dan kepentingan peribadi.

Hakikatnya GST baru hendak dilaksanakan di negara ini. Justeru mana mungkin kita terus jatuhkan hukuman seolah-olah cukai ini bakal membebankan rakyat. Sepatutnya berilah peluang untuk sistem cukai baharu ini dilaksanakan terlebih dahulu. Selepas itu barulah kita menilai dan merumuskan keberkesanannya sama ada meng­untungkan serta membawa kebaikan mahupun merugikan dan perlu dihentikan atau disemak semula.

Dalam hal ini penulis percaya sebagai sebuah kerajaan yang berpaksikan rakyat dan bertanggungjawab, kita yakin kerajaan sentiasa terbuka untuk menerima pandangan dan maklum balas daripada rakyat. Andai kelak GST ini membebankan dan ada banyak ketirisan mahupun kelemahan majukanlah pandangan dan cadangan kepada kerajaan supaya ianya dikaji semula.

Mengambil kira senario yang kita lalui sekarang apa yang penulis boleh merumuskan ialah majoriti rakyat kita sebenarnya masih tidak memahami maksud sebenar GST.

GST adalah cukai kepenggunaan yang dikenakan ke atas barang dan perkhidmatan di semua peringkat perniagaan. Cukai ini dibayar apabila pengguna berbelanja. GST akan menggantikan cukai jualan dan perkhidmatan (CJP) yang sedia ada sekarang. Secara prinsipnya GST untuk menjadikan sistem percukaian negara lebih efektif, efisien, telus dan mesra perniagaan.

Hakikatnya GST adalah sistem percukaian lebih baik dan lebih adil berbanding CJP. Antara faedah nya­ta GST ialah, dapat mengurangkan kos perniagaan. Rakyat kita yang terbabit dalam dunia perniagaan pasti akan memperoleh manfaat besar melalui GST ini.

Misalnya, di bawah CJP peniaga tidak dapat menuntut sepenuhnya cukai yang dibayar ke atas input perniagaan. Namun, dengan GST, peniaga akan mendapat manfaat kerana boleh mendapatkan semula cukai input ke atas bahan mentah/barang dan perkhidmatan di setiap peringkat perniagaan. Ringkasnya, situasi ini membolehkan kos perniagaan menjadi lebih rendah.

Dalam hal ini, isu yang sering dibangkitkan malah mengelirukan rakyat, apakah pengurangan kos perniagaan itu perlu dan ditanggung pula oleh pengguna? Jawapannya tidak kerana kita perlu ingat GST menghapuskan cukai bertindih di bawah CJP. Justeru, pengguna akan membayar harga lebih berpatutan untuk kebanyakan barang dan perkhidmatan di bawah GST. GST lebih telus daripada CJP kerana pengguna akan tahu sama ada barang yang dibeli atau perkhidmatan diperoleh tertakluk kepada cukai dan amaun cukai perlu dibayar.

Hakikatnya selepas mengambil kira senario semasa di peringkat serantau dan global pengenalan GST dilihat sebagai satu keperluan dan bukan lagi pilihan. Dalam hal ini penulis teringat kata-kata Pe­ngarah Eksekutif Institut Penyeli­dikan Ekonomi Malaysia (MIER), Dr. Zakariah Abdul Rashid bahawa sebenarnya Malaysia berada dalam zon kritikal sekiranya tidak melaksanakan GST kerana ia keperluan signifikan kerajaan, selain mempunyai kesan jangka panjang.

Tambah beliau, GST secara umumnya lebih meringankan bebanan rakyat berbanding cukai jualan dan perkhidmatan yang dilaksanakan di premis premium dan premis per­khidmatan selama ini.

Sehingga kini, lebih 160 negara melaksanakan GST. Antara negara maju yang sudah pun melaksanakan GST adalah United Kingdom, Jepun, Jerman, Sweden, Belanda, Denmark dan Singapura. Di ASEAN hanya Malaysia, Myanmar dan Brunei belum melaksanakannya.

Maka apa yang penting sekarang rakyat perlu memahami senario ekonomi semasa. Realitinya kita perlu terima hakikat keadaan ekonomi global sememangnya tidak menentu dan belum pulih sepenuhnya. Ini ditambah de­ngan harga minyak dunia yang tidak stabil. Ini semua menyebabkan kedudukan mata wang negara kita tidak menentu sekaligus kos sara hidup dilihat semakin me­ningkat kerana nilai wang yang dimiliki rakyat semakin merosot.

Itu belum lagi dengan tindakan zalim peniaga dan pemborong yang mengambil kesempatan.

Maka adalah tidak wajar menu­ding jari menyalahkan pihak kerajaan semata-mata. Kerajaan sebenarnya berusaha keras untuk memulihkan ekonomi negara secara berperingkat dan memerlukan masa untuk membuahkan hasil yang kita harapkan.

Pantau peniaga ambil kesempatan menjelang GST

Ketika Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan (GST) diperkenalkan di Australia pada kadar 10 peratus mulai 1 Julai 2000, memang banyak rungutan orang ramai disebabkan mereka kurang faham konsep pelaksanaannya hingga menyebabkan timbul pelbagai persepsi dan tanggapan.

Bayangkan, pada bulan pertama, badan khas yang mengendalikan hal itu, Persaingan dan Suruhanjaya Pengguna Australia (ACCC) menerima lebih 60,000 aduan yang dihantar melalui talian serta aduan lisan pengguna.

Aduan itu kemudiannya semakin menurun dan selepas enam bulan, kadar graf aduan semakin statik, sekali gus membuktikan rakyat atau pengguna boleh menerima dan mula memahami konsepnya.


TIMBALAN Menteri Kewangan, Datuk Ahmad Maslan pada sesi dialog mengenai GST di Kuala Lumpur, baru-baru ini. - Foto Abdullah Yusof

Di Malaysia mungkin situasi yang sama akan berlaku apabila GST diperkenalkan pada kadar enam peratus bermula Rabu ini, ataupun jumlah aduannya lebih banyak daripada itu kerana Australia ketika itu mempunyai 11 juta penduduk berbanding hampir 30 juta rakyat Malaysia.

Malaysia juga boleh belajar daripada model GST Australia yang memberi tanggungjawab kepada ACCC untuk memainkan peranan aktif memberikan penerangan kepada rakyat, menerbitkan buku panduan, risalah, panduan harga dan diberi tanggungjawab memantau pelaksanaan GST.

'Permainan' politik

Badan seumpama itu perlu diwujudkan di Malaysia kerana setakat ini, terlalu banyak kekeliruan yang berlaku. Itu belum dikira 'permainan politik' pihak tertentu yang mahu menakutkan rakyat.

Hakikatnya, memang sudah tiba masa kerajaan melakukan pembaharuan kerana sejak GST mula dilaksanakan di Perancis pada tahun 1950-an sehingga Disember 2014, sebanyak 169 negara daripada 193 negara seluruh dunia sudah melaksanakannya.

Dalam kalangan tujuh negara Asia Tenggara, hanya Malaysia, Myanmar dan Brunei saja yang belum memulakan GST dan bermula 1 April ini, angka itu berubah selepas Indonesia melaksanakan GST pada tahun 1984, diikuti Thailand (1992); Singapura (1993); Filipina (1998); Laos (1999); Vietnam (1999) dan Kemboja (2009).

Itu fakta sejarah kerana ada kebimbangan besar yang melanda pengguna ketika ini. Ia mudah diteka kerana perkara utamanya selain terpaksa membayar kos tambahan ialah rakyat tidak mendapat maklumat cukup mengenai senarai barang, kadar kenaikan dan eksploitasi peniaga.


PESERTA membaca buku Panduan Harga Pengguna pada sesi dialog mengenai GST di Kuala Lumpur, baru-baru ini. - Foto Muhd Asyraf Sawal

Buku panduan GST

Walaupun sudah banyak maklumat disebarkan, ia dilihat belum menyeluruh. Bahkan buku Panduan Harga Pengguna yang dicetak khas untuk orang ramai juga sukar diperoleh. Buku panduan yang dicetak mengikut zon itu sangat penting untuk pengguna jadikan panduan.

Difahamkan, jumlah yang dicetak mencecah dua juta naskhah dan diedar di setiap kawasan Parlimen, pejabat kerajaan, pihak berkuasa tempatan (PBT) dan kawasan tumpuan ramai.

Buku setebal 26 muka surat itu secara jelas memuatkan maklumat senarai barang yang tidak dikenakan GST, perkhidmatan yang dikecualikan serta perbandingan harga sebelum dan selepas GST.

Penulis, sama seperti pengguna lain juga bimbang peniaga akan menaikkan harga sesuka hati, bahkan premis atau perniagaan yang tidak berdaftar dengan Kastam Diraja Malaysia (KDRM) untuk mengutip GST juga akan mengaut untung.

Bagaimana pengguna boleh memastikan kedai mana yang berdaftar atau tidak? Penulis mencadangkan, lebih baik kerajaan melalui KDRM atau Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan (KPDNKK) menggunakan mekanisme sijil atau logo tertentu.

Contohnya sama seperti penggunaan sijil dan logo HALAL oleh Jabatan Kemajuan Agama Islam (JAKIM). Ia memudahkan pengguna untuk memilih dan membuat aduan jika ada yang mengambil kesempatan.

Mungkin juga perlu diadakan poster senarai barangan yang dikenakan GST mengikut jenis perniagaan. Pengguna juga perlu tahu apa barangan yang dikategorikan berada dalam senarai penurunan harga, tiada perubahan harga atau mengalami kenaikan harga.

Contoh paling mudah, harga semasa sekilo bawang kecil merah (Thailand) ialah RM9.40 dan harga baharu selepas GST sepatutnya RM9.38, manakala harga sekilo tepung gandum GP (berbungkus) kekal pada harga RM1.35. Harga tepung jagung (berbungkus) 400 gram akan naik 10 sen kepada RM1.90.

Maklumat seperti inilah yang diperlukan pengguna. Jika diteliti buku panduan harga pengguna, disenaraikan 500 jenis barangan terpilih dan 140 daripadanya mengalami kenaikan harga, 29 kekal harga lama. Ini bermakna baki 331 lagi barangan akan turun harga.

Daripada jumlah ini, 66 peratus barangan keperluan mengalami penurunan harga, tetapi maklumat yang disebarkan kepada pengguna lebih kepada untuk menakutkan, bukannya maklumat sebenar.

Sebar maklumat tepat

Di sini pentingnya peranan pelbagai pihak untuk menyebarkan dan menerima maklumat tepat. Atas sebab itu Menteri Perdagangan Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan, Datuk Seri Hasan Malek sering memberi peringatan kepada peniaga supaya sentiasa mempamerkan tanda harga, sama ada ia merangkumi enam peratus, kadar sifar atau dikecualikan GST.

Pengguna pula boleh berperanan melaporkan salah laku peniaga untuk dikenakan tindakan mengikut Akta Kawalan Harga dan Antipencatutan 2011; Akta Perihal Dagangan 2011; Akta Perlindungan Pengguna 1999 dan Akta Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan 2014.

Jangan jadi mangsa peniaga tamak

Kira-kira 48 jam lagi, Cukai Barang dan Perkhidmatan (GST) yang hangat diperkatakan sejak beberapa bulan lalu akan dilaksanakan, menggantikan Cukai Jualan dan Perkhidmatan (SST), sekali gus bermulanya era baharu dalam sistem percukaian negara.

Sama ada suka atau tidak, mulai lusa, GST akan menjadi sebahagian daripada hidup kita. Walaupun pelbagai penjelasan dan jaminan dibuat oleh kerajaan betapa baiknya GST untuk negara dan rakyat berbanding sistem cukai sekarang, masih ramai yang keliru.

Sejak kelmarin misalnya, pasar raya dan premis menjual keperluan harian menerima kunjungan bagaikan menjelang musim perayaan kerana orang ramai yang percaya harga barang akan naik ekoran pelaksanaan GST, mahu menyimpan stok.

Dakyah keliru

Kekeliruan seperti ini memang dijangkakan, apalagi budaya baharu di negara ini sekarang ialah mempolitikkan setiap dasar kerajaan. Kehadiran media sosial yang bebas dan cepat menyebarkan apa saja pandangan termasuk pembohongan, menambah kekeliruan itu.

Hakikat bahawa 6 peratus GST berbanding kadar cukai jualan dan perkhidmatan setinggi 16 peratus, tidak diberi perhatian. Begitu juga kelemahan ketara dalam SST seperti kesan cukai berganda ke atas pengguna, ketiadaan pelepasan cukai terhadap barangan yang dieksport dan isu pindahan harga.

Jika GST benar-benar membebankan rakyat, bagaimana mungkin 160 negara sudah melaksanakannya. Malah dalam kalangan negara ASEAN, hanya Brunei Darus-salam dan Myanmar yang belum melaksanakannya. Bagaimanapun, berbanding negara lain, kadar GST sebanyak 6 peratus di Malaysia adalah yang terendah.

Perkara yang jelas, ekonomi di negara yang mengamalkan GST lebih stabil. Singapura sudah menikmati kesan positif GST, manakala pertumbuhan ekonomi Indonesia dan Vietnam sudah mengatasi Malaysia sejak mereka menukar sistem percukaian masing-masing.

Dengan kejatuhan harga minyak dunia dan kesannya amat dirasai negara, pelaksanaan GST tepat pada waktunya bagi memperluas dan mempertingkatkan lagi sumber pendapatan. Kerajaan tidak lagi boleh bergantung selamanya kepada dividen petroleum daripada PETRONAS.

Sebaik manapun GST, tempoh beberapa bulan pelaksanaan amat penting dalam memberi keyakinan kepada rakyat bahawa apa yang dilaksanakan kerajaan itu benar-benar menguntungkan mereka dan negara.

Memang akan wujud masalah dan rungutan tetapi jika ia ditangani secara bijak dan berkesan, rakyat akan menerima perubahan ini. Oleh itu, tugas penguatkuasaan untuk memastikan peniaga tidak mengambil kesempatan mengaut keuntungan daripada perubahan ini, amat penting.

Manfaatkan hak

Langkah beberapa agensi kerajaan yang terbabit seperti Kementerian Kewangan dan Kementerian Dalam Negeri, Koperasi dan Kepenggunaan (KPD-NKK) membuka bilik gerakan khusus bagi memantau pelaksanaan GST, harus dimanfaatkan sepenuhnya oleh kita sebagai pengguna.

Seperti parti pembangkang mempolitikkan GST untuk kepentingan mereka, begitu juga dengan segelintir peniaga yang sedar laba mereka akan berkurangan dengan pelaksanaan sistem cukai baharu ini.

Di sinilah pentingnya peranan kita sebagai rakyat dan pengguna bagi memastikan tidak selamanya menjadi mangsa politik dan ketamakan.

Sementara dakyah pembangkang akan berakhir apabila GST berjaya, peniaga yang tamak akan sentiasa cuba menipu.

Hanya kita sebagai pengguna boleh mengajar peniaga sedemikian. Sebagai permulaan, memeriksa dan bertanya sebarang kemusykilan dalam resit pembelian/bayaran, harus dijadikan budaya baharu seiring dengan pelaksanaan GST.   Manja Ismail  Berita Harian Kolumnis 31 Mac 2015

The importance of media integrity

Just because newspapers have a particular political leaning, it does not mean they should be the mouthpiece of political parties.

AS soon as I landed in London last Saturday, I picked up a copy each of two newspapers at the airport. One was the Daily Telegraph and the other was theGuardian. These two used to be my daily read until about five years ago, when I moved back to Malaysia.

The Telegraph is known for leaning towards the centre right.

Typically its readers are more comfortable with the British Conservative Party. Its relationship with the party is a longstanding one, to the extent that it has earned the nickname The “Torygraph”, as the party is also called the Tory party.

The Guardian, on the other hand, is generally on the centre left. Most of its readers would usually vote for the Labour Party, while some may be with the Liberal Democrats Party.

Such is the nature of the British press. You can guess someone’s political leaning just by looking at the newspaper that they buy.

In fact, when I was knocking door to door to canvass voters during the 2007 English local elections and in the run-up to the 2010 British general election, one of the key questions I would ask was what newspapers they read. You would more or less know how they would vote, simply based on the answer they gave.

This is true of quite a few other British newspapers, actually. Not just the Telegraph and the Guardian.

Readers of The Independent are generally more comfortable with the Liberal Democrats although many people with classical liberal leanings in all parties may enjoy reading its opinion columns.

The Daily Mail is generally quite right wing and therefore its readers are more likely to vote Conservative. But the Daily Mirror is avowedly Labour and perhaps even more to the left than Labour Party itself.

I enjoy reading both the Telegraph and the Guardian because by combining the two I get a relatively good glance of how those in the centre – be it centre right or centre left – see a particular issue.

Reading just one would probably skew your views further in a particular direction. But in combination you get to at least see the “other” side too.

And of course a discussion about the British media would not be complete if we do not mention the British Broadcasting Corporation. Despite being funded primarily by an annual TV licence fee that is collected via the government, the BBC is a world leader when it comes to quality and reliability of its news reporting.

They clearly know that they get their money from people of different political leanings and the government is merely a conduit.

Going back to the other newspapers, I must add that just because the media have a particular political leaning, it does not mean they are the mouthpiece of political parties.

On the contrary, it is the political parties which usually take heed of what the newspapers say.

In some other countries newspapers act more like a newsletter for their political masters.

Whatever is done by the politicians on their side would be reported in a positive way, while those on the opposing side would be presented as if they are the enemies of the state.

But when you read a mainstream British national newspaper, you will see that even though the newspapers generally do have a political leaning, only in rare cases would you find reports that are manifestly one-sided in nature. Journalistic integrity is alive.

For example, last Saturday’s Conservative-leaning Telegraph had articles suggesting that David Cameron, the current Conservative Prime Minister, “got frightened” when trying to reform schools and “does not know” which direction he wants to take the country. The Labour-backing Guardian said that the Conservative-LibDem coalition has successfully delivered a “strong government” for Britain.

That integrity is why political leaders in Britain take their newspapers seriously. The newspapers act as an important bridge between politicians and the voters, while at the same time they can also influence their readers which way to vote.

It would be unthinkable for a politician in the United Kingdom, no matter how high his position is, to call up a journalist to persuade him or her about how a story is written or to censure an editor if he publishes an unflattering story.

If this were to happen, then the phone call itself is very likely to be a front-page headline in that newspaper. And you could even expect that the newspaper would initiate a campaign to force the politician to resign for abusing his public office.

But in less free countries, editors may shiver at the thought of getting that phone call, and politicians or their lackeys happily abuse their powers.

The British press will play an even bigger role in shaping the future British political landscape over the next few weeks. The Fixed-Term Parliament Act 2011 specifies that the next general election will be held on May 7, and that the British parliament will be dissolved 25 working days before that.

That means the British parliament was dissolved just yesterday, and official campaigning by all political parties has just started. The British media will be tested once again during this crucial period.

But as newspapers operating in a country where there is respect for freedom of speech, I suspect they will continue to report political differences with the integrity expected from the press.

> Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own. The STAR Home Opinion Columnist Thinking Liberally 31 Mar 2015

Change mindset on English

I FIND it strange that some Malay intellectuals I met are against the idea of championing the English language over Bahasa Malaysia.

They look at me with disdain and ask why I am not proud of Bahasa Malaysia and where my identity as a Malay is.

I feel sad that these are the same people who lament the Malays’ weakness in English. I am really confused over their ambivalent stand. And they are not simple kampung folks but people who have PhDs from American universities.

It makes me wonder what is in their mind. Can’t they see that being proficient in English does not make one less Malay or less patriotic?

They keep harping on that English is just a tool for communication and that one does not need to go to English medium schools to learn the language. To them, it is all about having the right attitude.

And they ignore the fact that even with the right attitude, it requires a Herculean effort to master English if one attends Sekolah Kebangsaan where the English environment is missing.

How selfish and naive can they be when globalisation requires one to be proficient in English? Perhaps they are the exception with their high IQ, which makes becoming proficient in English easy for them despite studying in Malay schools in the 60s.

We have to think and care for the average and below average students who have difficulty mastering the English language. There are many out there who are unemployed or under employed due to their weakness in English. And many of them come from poor families where the role model for English at home is absent.

This country is unique in its history and we cannot compare with other countries where their national language reigns supreme and is highly regarded. While we would like to see Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca in all forms of communication in government and the private sector, the reality on the ground is different.

The education system itself is now creating two classes of citizens. The “haves” send their children for English education in the private sector while the “have nots” send theirs to sekolah kebangsaan. An uneven playing field is being created with the “have nots” having to struggle when they enter the employment market.

Why can’t we be honest with ourselves and accept that many schoolchildren suffer in silence when attending English lessons at sekolah kebangsaan? And the poor teacher, who is well trained to teach English, in many instances has to teach English in Bahasa Malaysia to make the students understand, interested and enjoy the lessons.

Given this sad situation, can we blame the students for being weak in English when they go for job interviews or to further their studies abroad?

No Malay would abandon their language as it is their cultural identity. No matter how Westernised they want to be, they cannot ignore the fact that they are born Malay which they will carry to their graves.

And when they go back to their kampung for their Hari Raya, they speak Malay despite speaking English at home in some elite area or at the golf club.

Let us be pragmatic. Let us have pity on the young boys and girls who have difficulty reading English newspapers, Enid Blyton, Shakespeare, Dandy and Beano comics, books, etc. Let us not close their window of knowledge by denying and belittling them for glorifying the English language.

The Education Ministry has done all it can to help the students become proficient in English. And they know it is a Herculean task and one that is not smooth sailing as English is now taught as a subject.

Even the American Peace Corps and British Councils were roped in to do the impossible - address the declining standard of English among our students.

Can we blame the Education Ministry for not being successful in their efforts when some Malay intellectuals feel that priority must be given to the enhancement of Bahasa Malaysia?

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad once asked: “What do the Malays want?”

When asked what he failed to do in his 22 years as Prime Minister, he answered curtly, “I have failed to open up the Malay mind.”

When I was in school preparing for MCE/Senior Cambridge, I enjoyed reading Shakespeare and also Sastera Melayu. Hassan Talib Gombak Selangor The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 31 Mar 2015

Ministry of Education plagiarising our works, claim local authors

"This is pretty shameful," wrote publisher and literary event organiser Sharon Bakar on her Facebook status highlighting a local author's claim of intellectual property theft by none other than the Ministry of Education.

"I have heard of other local authors not being paid for their works by the Ministry of Education... This is theft!!!" she added.

Sharon, who is a fixture in the local literary scene, was re-posting a picture and statement by local author Chua Kok Yee who reported that his stories were used without his permission in the current SPM Literature in English text book.

"Three of my short stories are selected as required reading for SPM Literature in English. Unfortunately, the text books were printed, distributed and sold without royalty agreement and permission from Silverfish Books and me.

"My rights as the author of those stories are not acknowledged in the book as well," read Chua's statement.

Silverfish Books is Chua's publisher for his book which contained the works allegedly lifted by the MoE without permission.

Contacted by Theantdaily on the matter, Chua reserved comment on the issue as he had arranged for a query to be sent to the ministry and is awaiting their reply.

Sharon's posting of Chua's plight has caused a flurry of comments and replies from local authors expressing rage at the treatment of writers by the ministry.

Many are outraged at the treatment of local authors and their intellectual property by the powers that be.

Some advised legal action while others urged the matter to be brought forward to the attention of the minister in charge and the ministry.

Others wryly observed that this is not an isolated incident mentioning several previous incidents when works of local authors were "borrowed" without permission, acknowledgement or royalty paid.

"True, never paid. My story ‘Neighbours’ was part of the SPM Literature 6th Cycle from 2008-2015!" commented fellow author Robert Raymer.

Another local author Kee Thuan Chye also commented, describing a similar experience he went through.

"That is right, Sharon Bakar. Mine was for the lesser SPM English Literature paper, with fewer students opting to sit it. When I discovered it, I contacted the Curriculum Development Centre, but they couldn't do anything about it. They had ceded the publishing of the syllabus texts to a school in Penang.

"I wrote to the school and they said the print run was rather small and they were using the proceeds for the school's development fund so they couldn't afford to pay royalties. Since it was in aid of the school, I decided not to pursue the matter further, and just accepted the honour of having my poem selected," wrote Kee.

Meanwhile, Kavyan Writers Group (Kavyan) president Uthaya Sankar SB commented how Malay language writers were also plagiarised in the same way when their works were "borrowed" without permission, acknowledgement or compensation by the ministry for the Malay literature component in Bahasa Malaysia (Komsas) curriculum.

"I came to know about the latest issue after it was highlighted on Facebook. It is sad to note that the ministry failed to learn its lesson from the previous Komsas issue," he told Theantdaily when contacted later.

"After the Komsas issue was highlighted and brought to the minister's attention, they promised that each writer would be contacted in person to get their permission and approval. Obviously, that did not happen," he lamented.

The writer expressed hope that the writers concerned would come forward to fight for their rights.

"Enough is enough. If publishers and the ministry does not know how to respect intellectual rights, we as writers have to show them," urged Uthaya.

Theantdaily has sent an email query to the Ministry of Education's Text Book Division Contracts and Copyright (Intellectual Property) Unit, though they too reserved comment.

"We are looking into the matter and we cannot release any comment without prior permission from the department head," read the email reply to the query.

Revelations of intellectual property violations by a ministry that is the very arm of the government hoping to move Malaysia into an intellectual property-based economy is certainly bad news.

For indeed, how can you respect a government that reneges on its own word and vision? How can we expect the world to respect our intellectual property rights if we do not respect those of our own writers?

How can we reach the status of a world-class education system and become a world-class developed economy if this is so?