Some Tuesday ASEAN links:
Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that only one out of every 10 Malaysians pay their taxes. Najib, who is also the country’s finance minister, warned that lost tax revenue could force the government to borrow money to pay a steadily increasing number of civil servants. He also named the proposed goods and services tax (GST) as a way to increase government revenues, although it remains an unpopular program.
Najib indicated that government subsidies have been placed on the chopping block as a result of the poor tax collection rate.
“We say our country’s economy is mid-high income and a lot better than other countries. But the question that is on our minds is why are petrol subsidies reduced and the sugar subsidy removed when our economy is already good?” he asked. “We have to explain that the rationalization is to avoid a situation where we have to borrow money.”
During his speech at the 1Malaysia People’s Aid event in Pekan, Najib also suggested that subsidies for non-Malaysians be revoked.
“Why should foreigners enjoy our subsidies too? We want to refine the system to become targeted, fair, transparent and efficient” he added.
Over in the Philippines, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista claims that the China Coast Guard blasted Filipino fishermen with water cannons near the hotly contested Scarborough Shoal, further enflaming tensions in the South China Sea.
The incident allegedly took place on January 27. Bautista revealed the information yesterday when speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
“The Chinese coast guard [sic] tried to drive away Filipino fishing vessels to the extent of using water cannon,” he said. “We continue to give primacy to [the dispute’s] peaceful resolution principally through international arbitration.”
Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing location that lies approximately 220 kilometers from the Philippine island of Luzon, is just one of many contested South China Sea areas. Last year, Manila asked the UN to make a formal ruling on Beijing’s claims in disputed waters – but Beijing has made no effort to join arbitration talks.
Finally, in Singapore, energy firm Asiatech has inked a deal with the United Overseas Bank (UOB) to finance the construction of a 230-megawatt power plant in Myanmar.
The plant, expected to be operational by the end of 2015, will cost $170 million. Drawing energy from combined cycle gas turbines, it will provide power to an estimated 5 million people.
“According to the Asian Development Bank, only about a quarter of Myanmar’s population of 60 million people currently have access to electricity,” wrote Channel NewsAsia.