“Lagi banyak cukai? Apa hal ini kerajaan baru?” (More new taxes? What is the new Government doing?).
That was the immediate reaction from a friend who lives in a squatter colony in Miri. He heard the news quoting Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying that new taxes needed to be imposed to boost the national revenue.
Dr Mahathir hinted that the coming Budget 2019 to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat next month would be “tough”.
So far, there have been cautious response from the politicians in Sarawak. But the ordinary folk like my squatter colony friend are not amused.
“Kita sokong Pakatan Harapan masa pilihanraya, sekarang cukai baru pula! he exclaimed. (We voted for Pakatan Harapan during the general election and now we are facing new taxes?)
My friend collects scrap-metal for a living. He lives with his mother and siblings in the Pujut Corner squatter colony.
His other squatter-neighbours are not amused either. They want the Pakatan Harapan Sarawak politicians to object to any new taxes that will be “painful” to the rakyat. One can sympathise with them.
Pakatan Harapan Sarawak have 12 MPs while Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition (former Barisan Nasional Sarawak) have 19 MPs.
All of them must say a big “no” to any new taxes that Putrajaya wants to impose - if these new taxes will negatively impact the ordinary people of Sarawak. If these proposed new taxes affect the ordinary folk and the poor in our state, all the 31 MPs from Sarawak from all political parties should reject the proposals.
These Sarawak MPs must make known their united stance to Dr Mahathir. They must also tell Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng to come up with a Budget 2019 that is friendly to the rakyat.
The new Budget 2019 must not inflict more pain to the people of Sarawak. Putrajaya should instead devise a Budget that lightens the burden of ordinary Sarawakians, not make it worse.
So many of the 2018 Budget promises are still not fulfilled yet. The 2018 Budget that contained a lot of promises of big-money allocations was not a surprise.
After all it was a Budget that was for the 14th general election. And now, we citizens have heard about new taxes for 2019. Ordinary folk must use their rakyat-power to good effect.
We should all stand up and say a big ‘no’ to new taxes and should proceed to make sure both state and federal leaders deliver their 2018 promises.
Past experience has shown that many Budget promises and election promises have not been fulfilled or have not produced the desired results.
For us in Sarawak, every political parties from both the ruling government and Opposition must set up a specific internal unit to monitor the delivery of important Budget provisions announced by Putrajaya and Kuching for Sarawakians.
These units must be made up of party officials who will check on each Budget provisions and they must carry out periodic checks to make sure these Budget promises are delivered to targeted groups as fast as possible.
If these Budget promises are not delivered to us ordinary Sarawakians within three months, we must remind Putrajaya and Kuching about it.
It has to be noted that there have been prolonged delays in delivering certain important projects promised to the rakyat in the past.
One of the projects promised by Putrajaya to Sarawak was the MyBeras scheme, where the Federal Government promised 20kg of free rice to the hardcore poor.
The MyBeras scheme did not materialise until now even though it was announced in January 2016. The project was devised during the Budget 2016 revision by the the former Barisan National regime but failed to see daylight due to logistic issues in Sarawak and Sabah.
Now we must make sure there are no more such failed-promises. We, the ordinary citizens, must be the “eyes and the ears” at the grassroots of society. We are in a position to make sure the Government delivers the promises it made to the rakyat.
If we find any unfulfilled promises, we must seek answers from the politicians who are the “wakil rakyat” in our area whom we voted into office.
These elected representatives, in the form of state assembly members and MPs must be prepared to pressure the state and Federal Government to deliver the Budget pledges within the promised-timeframe.
We ordinary Sarawakians must use our “rakyat-power” to good effect.