Raise debt limit, not squeeze Malaysians for taxes to refill public coffers depleted by Covid-19, ex-finance minister tells Putrajaya

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng speaks to reporters at a press conference in Wisma DAP, George Town March 8, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng urged the Perikatan Nasional government to raise the statutory debt limit and not chase taxpayers in order to replenish its depleting funds amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the domestic debt market, which possesses a high liquidity of RM1.3 trillion, is a good alternative that could be tapped by raising the legal debt limit from the current 60 per cent of the GDP to 65 per cent or even 70 per cent.

“A PN government running out of funds should not be so desperate to fill its coffers through high-handed methods,” Lim said during the assembly of DAP Parliamentary Liaison Committees for Bagan, Tasek Glugor And Permatang Pauh yesterday.

A copy of the speech was extended to the press today.

The Bagan MP said the recent admission from Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the government does not have much cash left should not be used as an excuse to wield a tax law that would force taxpayers to pay their assessed amount even if this was being legally disputed.

Lim said businesses and taxpayers could be victimised following the introduction of a new Section 103B to the Income Tax Act, which makes tax payable notwithstanding the “institution of any proceedings under any other written law”.

“In other words, pay first talk later. This is a denial of the right of natural justice of the taxpayer and the courts’ jurisdiction.

“Before in the past taxpayers often plead to the High Court for a stay order via a judicial review application, where the taxpayer is allowed to withhold payment of the tax assessment until the disposal of the case,” he said.

Section 103B was gazetted on December 31 last year.

“Armed with new powers given by PN, many businesses already suffering from the economic recession are subjected to such action taken by the Inland Revenue Department (LHDN) demanding payment.

“If PN refuses to abolish such an unfair provision in Section 103, then only a change a government can stop the extreme bullying by the PN government,” Lim said.