Political leaders should try to shift the national conversation away from race and religion to one focused on addressing the welfare of the poor, advised PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
Working alongside academics and professionals, this could be a way to redeem the narrative from “bigots”, he said.
Speaking at regional lawyer association LawAsia’s Constitutional and Rule of Law conference yesterday evening, Anwar said he had been steering parliamentary caucus on government and reforms discussions in the direction of socio-economic issues.
“Our focus in the past (few) weeks has been on the issue of poverty and inequality (in order) to get the narrative back on track from issues of race and religion (which are) being hijacked by the racist and religious bigots,” he said during the question and answer session.
Later, another audience member asked what he would do about the rise in divisive racial and religious rhetoric in politics if he becomes prime minister.
To which Anwar retorted “not if, when” and the audience broke out in laughter.
When in charge, he reiterated that he would shift the narrative to focus on the poor regardless of their race.
He mooted more inter-racial charity and inter-religious dialogue, giving an example of some present programmes between Muslims and Confucianism followers.
“I think it’s not just political leaders, but academics and professionals (too) must take the lead in ensuring this new narrative,” he said.
Anwar is set to take the reins from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, but a date has not been set, prompting much speculation over whether the transition will take place.
Asked about a suggestion that Pakatan Harapan reinstates the GST, Anwar, a former finance minister, commented that present economic conditions were unfavourable for the tax.
While more efficient, the GST would burden the poor the most, he predicted.
“Without doubt, GST is considered to be more efficient and transparent tax system, there is no question.
“But whether a country is ready with the enormous numbers (of people) in the lower income bracket (and) can they actually be expected to accept that sort of policy, that is the question,” he answered.
Thus, Anwar believed that the SST should continue but be reformed from time to time.
“So, to my mind, I think we should proceed now with SST (but) improve and reform where necessary, make the necessary adjustments. And give some years before we start considering change again,” he added.
On Thursday, Mahathir said the government would study the GST idea “if that was what the people wanted” but assured that any changes would not be reflected in the Budget 2020, which is slated to be tabled on Oct 11.
Similarly, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government would only consider it if there was evidence of the public wanting the tax.
The Harapan administration previously removed the six per cent GST after promising to do so during their GE14 campaign.
It was later replaced with the SST, a different tax regime which charges 10 per cent on goods and six per cent on services.
Back in 2017, the previous BN government collected RM44 billion from the GST. Harapan estimates it will collect RM22 billion from the SST this year. – Malaysiakini