|Laman Webantu KM2: 6375 File Size: 4.4 Kb *|
MGG: The government revokes the ten-sen tax per litre on diesel
By M.G.G. Pillai
16/11/2001 3:36 pm Fri
Parliament has not passed the budget, but the ten-sen more tax
per litre of diesel forced prices up so suddenly that the
government scurries for cover. The finance ministry yesterday
revoked it. It is unconstitutional, since a tax Parliament
discusses in the budget should only be withdrawn in that House.
But the government is caught with its pants down. Cabinet
ministers, from the Prime Minister down, said it should not lead
to high prices. In fact, they forbade it. King Canute could not
turn the waves back, but in Bolehland, even the most ineffective
cabinet ministers believes that is his birthright. Malaysian
businessmen, on the other hand, deem it their birthright to defy
any tax they deem wrong.
That is what happened. Prices went up. Taxis won't come to
pick you up unless you agree to pay more. Once this was only of
taxis at railway stations and airports; today it is at every
hotel. A British professor, a former Malaysian, here on a
consultancy had to pay RM15 for three kilometres from his hotel.
I must offer to pay more than the metered fare if I am in a
hurry, or wait until one which agrees to accept the metered fare.
The cabinet lives in rarified glass cages, see the world through
their privileges, and decide what must, only to find it ignored.
That it had to reverse it shows that it did not think through the
tax before announcing it. It is also unconstitutional. As was
the decision to exempt three sectors from it.
The ten-sen tax caused a dispute within the cabinet. The
criticisms of it were wide and furious. The cabinet ignored it.
But it also caused the cabinet to behave in public like Keadilan
meetings in private. The domestic trade and consumer affairs
minister, Tan Sri Muhiyuddin Yassin, insisted diesel prices would
not be reduced at any cost. The entrepreneur development
minister, Dato' Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, retorted that the
cabinet had exempted three groups from it -- transport, fishing,
and the government bodies. Tan Sri Muhiyuddin retorted that the
cabinet had only agreed it should be reviewed. Now the finance
ministry removes it.
The Budget is presented to Parliament. The tax came into
force after it was. It is not passed yet. How could the finance
ministry, on its own bat, rescind the tax? A supplementary bill
must first be presented to amend it. The government reasons that
since it is for the good, it is all right. It is not. But
Parliament insists it wants to be no more than a convenient
rubber stamp, so this illegality will be accepted. I asked an
opposition MP about it this morning, and he was all for it. But
we have a long history of electing numbskulls to Parliament and
the government's neglect of it other than as a rubber stamp.
This arrogance comes from its total control of it from the start,
in 1955. The government is not as strong as the opposition not
as weak. The National Front stays out of the firing line it
It is from this political weakness that the National Front
fumbles. It will succumb to pressure. It is a sign of its own
impotency. But it remains in power because it has the numbers on
its side, and the power that comes fromn long incumbency:
Malaysia has known no government but that controlled by UMNO.
The Malay ground is divided between an UMNO, which shifted its
political focus from a secular to an Islamic state, and a PAS,
with its on a theocratic one. Because the political fight is so
narrowed, the multiracial society goes down the drain. The stark
lines between the Malay with his Islamic agenda and the non-Malay
marginalises the former, who control the market place. And shows
his anger by disregarding the advise they would at least agree to
consider. The government is rudderless, and prone to hit fiscal
and financial rocks and not know it until too late. That is why
it had to scrap the ten-sen per litre tax on diesel. And the law
to do it. The danger is far from over.