Education could use ‘em sin money

DEC 25 — Sin taxes to fund education? Why not?

The idea, that 20 per cent of sin taxes be channelled to Chinese schools, was mooted during the MCA general assembly over the weekend.  This was following grouses by the community who believed funds from the government to vernacular schools were still lacking.

The proposal will be deliberated by the new MCA leadership as MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the matter would be discussed at the next central committee meeting.

Chinese education groups, known for their vocal stand on many issues, have welcomed the suggestion. However, they have their doubts if the government would agree to such a notion. They are simply being realistic.

United Chinese School Committees Association (Dong Zong) vice-president Chow Siew Hon had told The Malay Mail yesterday: “I think the government should fairly distribute the funds based on number of students in each school.”

I am among the few who strongly believes in Sekolah Kebangsaan — a single schooling system where students are exposed to various languages. This creates a sense of national identity from young, as seen in Indonesia and Thailand.

I am also a firm believer that money should be invested into education and proper healthcare service. These are two important elements that were given much attention in thriving civilisations.

So, why can’t money collected from gambling and lottery earnings be channelled into education — regardless of the school stream?

In 2010, the Finance Ministry revealed it received RM1.08 billion in gambling revenue from 4D gaming outlets and “special draws” that year.

However, some had argued it was “un-Islamic” to fund Muslims with “dirty” money. Following this, then Rasa MP Anthony Loke suggested the revenue be channelled to vernacular schools.

“It is killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, you can solve the issue of using the money in an un-Islamic way and at the same time, you can help Chinese education,” Loke was quoted as saying.

For the record, Berjaya Sports Toto contributed RM62.4 million to the Youth and Sports Ministry’s funding arm — the National Sports Council (NSC) — as stated in its 2013 annual report. It was a huge increase from the RM57.9 million it gave the council in 2012.

The money channelled to NSC, although never tabled in the open, was believed to have been used to fund national sports associations and our athletes including the likes of national cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, World No.1 shuttler Datuk Lee Chong Wei and high jumper Nauraj Singh Randhawa who won the gold medal at the just concluded SEA Games in Myanmar.

It is amazing that no one had taken issue over Sports Toto’s generosity. And one can imagine the money collected from 4D gaming outlets judging by the number of “special draws” since last year.

Genting, the operator of the nation’s sole casino and highland resort, sponsored the Pahang football team in the Super League. The company’s name was stamped on the front of the team’s jersey. No issues there either.

I had, in a commentary several years ago, said sin taxes ought to be used to fund sporting activities. This was after talk of legalising football betting in a bid to gain additional income for the nation as well as to curb illicit outflow of our money. However, the plan never kicked off.

The intake of non-Chinese students into Chinese schools has increased over the years. However, some parents were forced to pay “donation” to the school upfront and the annual fees — despite primary and secondary education was free in the country — was rather steep.

You hardly see Chinese school students walking door to door asking for “Jogathon funds”. Instead, they requested contributions to build a new building block for their school through fund-raising dinners.

It is important for every child to be given a wholesome learning experience in a conducive environment based on the national education philosophy. We have six more years before Malaysia calls itself a developed nation in line with Vision 2020. Yet, there are some schools that still lack basic infrastructure and equipment.

I hope to see Malaysians embracing a single national school system in my lifetime. But while waiting for that to happen, I believe money — derived from sin tax or otherwise — should be pumped equally into every school in the country.

As the late Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

You May Also Like

Related Articles