BERITA DAILY LETTER: From Darshan Singh Dhillon, via e-mail

Fundamental to any multi-racial and multi-religious nation’s growth is its stability and in this aspect we Malaysians can proudly stand above the rest. Despite being a fairly young nation, together we have demonstrated to the world that people of diverse racial and religious background can indeed live and work together achieving unparalleled economic success even at times when the outlook appeared challenging.

All this has been possible only because we have accommodated each other.

To drive the nation forward, backed by political stability and a growth economy, the government formulated a clear vision to achieve a high income developed nation status by 2020.

Although initially many had felt that this was an over ambitious target, it now appears to be in sight but we must continue to move ahead together if we wish to realise this ambition within timeframe.

To ensure sustained development, in 2015 the government introduced the goods and services tax (GST) replacing the traditional sales and services tax (SST) which was open for manipulation. This was a decisive move, financially securing our nation at a time when the global oil prices collapsed.

We would have faced an economic catastrophe if not for introduction of the GST and an economic collapse is indeed a scary thing!

A clear example can be derived from the Venezuelan experience where although having the largest oil reserves in the world but a drop in world oil prices has created a dysfunctional economy and out of control inflation.

Our government’s strategy of moving away from overreliance on revenue derived from natural resources was perhaps the wisest move by the in the past five years.

While the GST has obviously come at a cost, on the hindsight its implementation has helped us thwart larger economic issues.

Today, there is continued debate on the high cost of living issue predominantly linked to the GST, and with looming general election, it is just gaining traction, regardless that the government has implemented various initiatives to help the lower and middle income groups to mitigate its impact.

We fail to realise and appreciate the reasons behind government decision in introducing the GST.

Reacting to negativity, the government continues to introduce initiatives, the latest being “Jualan Sentuhan Rakyat” a programme by the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism where basic essentials are offered at lower prices in strategic locations.

While this is a commendable effort, the Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) recommends that the government evaluates the introduction of “ration card” similar to which is currently being implemented in India.

These pre-registered cards can be used by individuals to purchase basic and essential items at a subsidised rate. This will help ensure that social assistance can sustainably reach the target group.

We are now entering a critical but exciting period where the general election will be held soon. Again we get a chance to choose a government which we think will be best able to serve our interest but in doing so, our key consideration must be stability, without which everything else would be worthless.

Let’s Bina Negara together

Darshan Singh Dhillon is the president of Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM)