AFTER a public uproar against the abrupt sales and service tax (SST) imposed on traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) where no known engagement with stakeholders was held, newly minted Deputy Finance Minister Lim Hui Ying has finally come up with a clarification.
However, this explanation comes as somewhat of an afterthought. T&CM has been around and has become an integral part of the lives of the older generation. Nevertheless, it is also increasing in popularity among the younger generation.
The government recognises that more and more patients are seeking T&CM treatment. In Malaysia, T&CM outlets or shops are registered with the government, and T&CM practitioners need to register with the Health Ministry (MOH) before they are allowed to formally practice.
Malaysia has long embarked on this trend where there is a T&CM department in our general hospitals. As a Sabahan, I am proud to point out that there is a well-known T&CM Department at the Sabah Women and Children’s Hospital (Hospital Likas) where the practitioner dons a white doctor’s coat and attends to patients.
The government and Hui Ying need to recognise that T&CM is accepted as healthcare by the government and by the common masses.
Hence, it is totally incomprehensible as to why the government prioritises wealth by expanding its coffers above the health of the common rakyat.
Hui Ying is just a messenger
The appropriate action by both MOH and the Finance Ministry (MOF) respectively, is to withdraw the directive and not collect nor compel the collection of the SST from T&CM service providers.
Hui Ying acknowledged that she understood many traditional Chinese medicine practitioners were concerned about the SST. However, her feeble move to arrange meetings for them to meet with MOF officers to ensure there was clarity seems insincere – if not – another exercise to waste their time further.
We are aware of her stint in her previous portfolio where her duty seemed more like that of a glorified courier/messenger for the Education Ministry (MOE) and government, infamous for none other than conveying and defending her ministry’s policies.
Even if the said policies would not benefit the people, she would choose to remain mum and not voice out for the rakyat’s interests.
Lest we forget, during her tenure at the Education Ministry despite being informed continuously about the shortage of 1,300 teachers at Chinese primary schools (SJKCs) across the country, she persisted in defending MOE’s data and stood adamant that there was a surplus of teachers at SJKCs.
Yes, while engagement with stakeholders is essential, the execution ability of a Deputy Minister and the final decision of a ministry are the key.
Seemingly, Hui Ying as a Deputy Minister does not wield any decision-making power, hence further engagements with stakeholders would be a lost cause and not yield any realistic favourable outcome.
And certainly, if her engagements with the stakeholders are for clarity and further justification of this unwelcome tax – then she is just wasting taxpayers’ money and time further. – Dec 30, 2023
Datuk Dr Pamela Yong is MCA’s deputy secretary-general.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.