Thursday, November 15, 2012

TMI: Malaysia needs to step up tax and subsidy reforms, says IMF chief

Malaysia needs to step up tax and subsidy reforms, says IMF chief
TMI: November 14, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Malaysia needs a faster overhaul of its tax and subsidy regimes to sustain economic growth, said Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Lagarde said in an interview with The Edge that the Malaysian government not only needed to broaden its revenue base by introducing the goods and services tax (GST) but also needed to confine subsidies to the truly needy as well as eliminate tax incentives that were unproductive.
“The allocation of public resources could also be improved by the streamlining of untargeted subsidies and wasteful tax incentives and replacing them with targeted assistance to the truly needy,” she told The Edge.
Malaysia’s finances are regarded as among the weakest in Asia due to its high debt-to-revenue ratio and reliance on petroleum to finance its budget.
Approximately one-third of federal government income is from oil and gas alone, and only one-third from taxes paid by companies and individuals.
A paltry 1.7 million out of 12.8 million working adults paid income tax last year and only 130,000 companies out of 700,000 paid taxes.
The amount of taxes from individuals amounted to just RM14 billion last year while the total from companies came up to about RM40 billion.
Oil and gas, meanwhile, contributed about RM60 billion to government coffers.
GST is expected to give the federal government a wider scope to collect taxes as it is based on consumption rather than income, thus spreading the tax burden more evenly.
The Najib administration has said that the implementation of the GST will not happen until the public had been sufficiently educated on the new tax system and many observers expect GST to be introduced after the general election.
Lagarde (picture), however, commended the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), which aims to lift the country to high income status by 2020, but noted that such as goal would require that Malaysia rebalance its economy away from a largely export oriented economy to one that was more domestically driven.
She also said that the US needed to provide clarity on how it would avoid falling off the so-called “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year when spending cuts and tax increases are scheduled to take place.
Lagarde forecast a growth of six per cent for the Asian region next year and said that deeper integration and good management could set the path for Asian economic leadership and contribute to global growth.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

malaysiakini: End the smear campaign on Nurul Izzah... by Ahmad Farouk Musa & friends

End the smear campaign on Nurul Izzah
  • Ahmad Farouk Musa & friends
  • 12:26PM Nov 8, 2012
COMMENT We at the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) condemn and lament the irresponsible mischaracterisation of Nurul Izzah Anwar’s statement on religious freedom.

She merely summarised the gist of the well-known Quranic verse inSurah al-Baqarah which clearly stressed that there is to be no compulsion in matters of faith, for truth and error has already been clearly stated.

Because of that she has been subjected to the crudest level of character assassination from those seeking to stoke controversy and gain political mileage for the upcoming elections.

Islam is not an ethnicity

In particular, the danger lies in the unmistakably ethnic nature of the sentiments that are motivating the on-going smear campaign against her. The erroneous assumption being encouraged is that Malays can only be Muslims.

This, to be sure, goes against the elementary confusion of an ethnicity with a religion. Here, we should pause to reflect on how that very confusion is also discernable in conservative Zionist thinking, which some Malay Muslims who are so enraged by Nurul Izzah’s statement are also supposed to oppose.

NONEMore importantly, the smear campaign is un-Islamic in how it particularly contravenes a clearly stated principle in the Quran which calls for the freedom of conscience: no human being is to be forced to believe in something he or she does not want to.

The evidence is plain for all to see. Consider another example in the following passage:

“And [thus it is] had thy Sustainer so willed, all those who live on earth would surely have attained to faith, all of them: dost thou, then, think that thou couldn’t compel people to believe."[Qur'an,10:99]

In other words, the belief that Malays must be made to remain Muslim goes against the principle of reason and justice – the cornerstone of Islamic epistemology.

It thus makes no sense to believe that the principle of non-coercive assent is to be upheld only for non-Muslims and it would be null and void once a person converts to Islam. Those who believe that are mistaking Islam for Hotel California, where you can check in anytime you like, but can never leave.

More worryingly, that outlook all too easily assumes that Islam is morally inconsistent; never mind the problem that it would also require a strong Islamic state to force Muslims into conformity.

Freedom matters

Virtue is only virtuous – and not opportunistic, accidental, foolish or political – when it is done out of free will.

Thus, rather than to police and threaten others into good behaviour and belief, much time, effort, cost, conflict and ill will can be spared through compassionate and transparent communication whereby our convictions and the ethical choices we make, emerge from out of a clear grasp of the principles and values that colour our moral horizons.

This - seeing the straight path after the seriousness, honesty, patience, and labour of inner reflection – is enlightenment.

We believe it takes no moral, social or political cost at all to err on the side of charity and trust, and let every individual set on his or her journey to arrive to that very point of self-consciousness.

After all, no one forced Muhammad to the cave.

All this, very sadly, is far from the minds of Muslims today. Muslims all too easily react in anger, without taking any time to consider the ethical ramifications of their demands.
They mistake self-righteousness for injustice; the suppression of freedom for happiness and in the process they cannot tell the difference between on one hand, the inner monologues of victimisation that has shaped their egos and on the other, their conscience.

In that frenzy of rage, the personal has been drowned by the political. There is no Muslim condition to speak of, just enraged mobs. The only “winners” to speak of in the meantime, are those seeking to exploit religion for ethnocentric ends.

The Islamic Renaissance Front calls upon all our friends and comrades who believe in the freedom of conscience to speak out against the rising tide of religious chauvinism and speak truth to power.

AHMAD FAROUK MUSA is director of the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF). The above statement is jointly issued by Islamic Renaissance Front IRF members: Ahmad Farouk, Ahmad Fuad Rahmat, Rizqi Mukhriz, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Ehsan Shahwahid, Muhammad Anas Daniel and Shawn Syazwan.

malaysiakini: Transcript of Nurul Izzah's Q&A at forum

Transcript of Nurul Izzah's Q&A at forum
2:33PM Nov 8, 2012 
Last Saturday's forum in Subang Jaya, on the topic 'Islamic state: Which version? Whose responsibility?', was jointly organised by the Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute and Islamic Renaissance Front.

At the forum, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar had said that there was "no compulsion in religion" when responding to a question from a member of the audience on whether religious freedom also applied to Malays.

This was reported by Malaysiakini under the headline, 'Nurul: There should be no compulsion in choosing faith.'

NONENurul Izzah had also said, in her reply to the question, that she was "tied to the prevailing views" in the country.

On Monday,Utusan Malaysiaattacked Nurul Izzah for her comments at the forum in a report on its front page, and quoted theMalaysiakini report in the article headlined ‘Melayu perlu bebas pilih agama?' (Should Malays be free to choose religion?).

Subsequently, Nurul Izzah was accused of advocating apostasy among Muslims - a claim she has vehemently denied and has threatened law suits against both Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who also stepped into the row through a Bernama report yesterday, questioned why the Lembah Pantai MP was suing the two dailies, but not Malaysiakini.

Here, Malaysiakini produces the transcript of the event, during the period Nurul Izzah responded to questions from the floor. 

She took the questions ahead of other speakers because she had to leave early.

Question 1: It's heartening to know that you just cannot coerce someone into believing your beliefs, right? On any matter.
Now, I do want to ask a very controversial question, so what then the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community) here or the sexual minority here?
I'd like your views on that because there are people who feel that just by being able to love the same sex goes against their religion or beliefs, but we don't believe that.
Our own beliefs are such that we are answerable to God, yes, but let us be answerable to God. Thanks.

 YB Nurul can you... all right, we'll have one more, just one more question, then she'll answer both then take leave. Yes.

Question 2: I'm very happy to hear YB Nurul speak about freedom of religion. Does she actually apply that to Malays as well in terms of freedom of religion? That is number one.
Number two, I think it is a fallacy to believe that Egypt now is (in) a better condition than it was before. Everybody knows that it is getting worse.
I have a friend in Egypt and she is really not happy about what is going on over there, so I do believe YB is trying to promote the idea of an Islamic state, like you know this which is completely not true.
But mainly my question is, when you speak of freedom of religion, are you actually applying to the Malays as well? Thanks.

Moderator: Well YB Nurul, that's a good way to start the morning.
The audience laughs.

Moderator: You have two questions of great import at two ends of the spectrum. Could you try to answer that, please.

Nurul Izzah:
 Thank you, Cyrus, I love too.

The audience laughs.

Nurul Izzah: Okay, so the first question. In terms of the sexual rights of LGBT, Tariq Ramadan addressed this question when IRF organised his programme, I think about three months back and I think, of course, you're not just talking about Islam.
There are limitations and you know, implemented in Christianity with regards to people of - you know - LGBT, but one thing is important is you should not victimise anyone. 

Hudud forum Nurul IzzahYou should not also implement and you know, ensure the laws of the land encroach into private... uh.. into public space.
I think that is the main underlying principle. But if you ask me whether, as a Muslim, I can accept, I think yes, you or whoever that, besides their particular sexual orientation.
Yes, in private you cannot enforce them certain regulation, etcetera. But as a Muslim, I also cannot accept and that is regulation of my faith and as well as my friends who are Catholic, etcetera. 

I think here you want to make sure that they are not victimised, the current practise, whether how, through the Borders (bookstore) ... sort of, err, how Jawi or Jakim at that time went to the Borders, some books etcetera, so the way it is practised does not respect and does not give any meaning for the sanctity of Islam, or any religion for that matter.
You must always use hikmah, so yes, I will say here, we have limitation, but certainly it should not be encroached into public space.

The second question with regards (to) what you think I'm trying to promote, I would correct that assumption. Yes, Egypt is undergoing a tumultuous process. It has not been resolved, there are many challenges they face.
I am not saying they have achieved a Utopian ideal view of a state and how it should be governed but I always take the development of the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, from seen as a rather dogmatic Islamic movement come up with a political entity to meet the needs of the time and their relationship and collaboration with the Christian Coptic is something in particular that we have to observe and appreciate.

So if you say things are bad for Egypt, no. You, and we, must not be so judgmental and that is partly the society or the country that we have inherited that allows us to see things in black and white, whereas sometimes it is not as simple as that.
Sometimes in a stormy period, it is important for them to undergo and hopefully, because we wish for the best. We wish that they will have wisdom and finally manage the governance of the country itself.


The bell rings.

Nurul Izzah: Okay, one more minute.

The audience laughs.

Hudud forum IRF Ahmad Farouk MusaNurul Izzah: Yes, umm, but the idea itself, I think, goes back. And when you ask me, there is no compulsion in religion, even Dr (Ahmad) Farouk (Musa) quoted that verse in the Quran.
How can you ask me or anyone, how can anyone really say, 'Sorry, this only apply to non-Malays.' It has to apply equally.

The audience applauds.

Nurul Izzah: In the Quran, there is no specific terms for the Malays. This is how it should be done. So I am tied, of course, to the prevailing views but I would say that.

So what you want is of course in terms of quality. You believe so strongly in your faith, that even me, being schooled in Assunta with a huge cross in the hall and an active singing Catholic society will not deter you.
The bell rings and the moderator thanks the speaker.

The audience applauds.