KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Datuk Zaid Ibrahim dubbed Chinese Malaysians “true patriots” today, claiming the minority group pay more tax in comparison to any other race in the country, including the dominant Malay community.
The former minister’s remark on Twitter this evening came scant hours after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak called on Malaysians to prove their patriotism by paying tax, noting that only 10 per cent out of 14 million workers nationwide do so.
“I agree with PM that paying tax is patriotic act. Since more Chinese pay tax than the Malays they are true patriots,” Zaid said on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim.
Almost instantly, he posted a second comment to correct his initial response, but which appears to be no less provocative.
“Sorry I think Chinese pay more tax than the Malays. They maybe fewer (sic) Chinese tax payers,” the Kelantan-born politician tweeted.
Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese make up about 30 per cent of Southeast Asia’s third largest economy, coming in behind Malays, who form about 60 per cent of the country’s 28 million population.
The prime minister was reported urging Malaysians to fulfil their duty to the country by paying tax when outlining the government’s reasons to introduce the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST).
“Paying your taxes is an act of patriotism” he was quoted as saying by The Star Online at a seminar on Strengthening the National Economy at the Federal Territories Mosque here.
“The definition of patriotism in our country is that we must discharge our responsibility to the country for the good of the people and the nation.
“When we pay tax, we are helping the people. We instil this spirit, with this our country will be more successful,” state news agency Bernama reported the PM as saying.
Najib was also quoted as saying the revenue was needed to continue developing the country, as Malaysians were now more demanding and had higher expectations of the government.
Such demands could only be fulfilled if there was more revenue, he added.
Malaysia’s proposed GST rate of 6 per cent, which will be enforced from April 2015, is the lowest in the region, whereas most countries implement a 10 per cent value added tax (VAT).
The consumption tax was first announced during Budget 2005 and was originally scheduled to be implemented in 2007, and tabled for the first reading in 2009 for implementation in late 2011, but was withdrawn during the second reading in 2010 following fierce public resistance.
The repeated deferments ended this year when it was finally passed in Parliament during a tabling of Budget 2014.
Unlike income tax, which is only applicable after a certain salary level is exceeded, the GST means all Malaysians will be taxed according to their level of spending, regardless of income.
Its introduction has met with vehement resistance from certain consumer groups and political parties, most recently PAS.
At its annual congress which kicked off last week, the opposition party’s ulama wing called the GST “unIslamic”.