KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there were individuals and business people who were forced to pay more taxes than they were required to by the previous government.
He said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government under him would try to retrieve the money but it needed more information from the victims.
“We want to know who forced this, how much they had to pay and if they were required to pay the taxes in full,” Dr Mahathir said at a briefing for RTM and Bernama, which are official media, at his residence near here today.
He added that they were approached by the Inland Revenue Board (IRB or LHDN) to pay up and if they did not, they were blacklisted and had their passports impounded. This meant they were barred from leaving the country.
Their account books were also seized and raids were conducted, he said, adding that all these were actions to disrupt their businesses if they did not heed the IRB’s instructions.
Commenting further, he said the IRB suppressed them even though they had paid taxes and had documents showing proof of payment.
“It was a way of threatening them to prevent them from donating to others such as opposition parties.
“We know this, although it is not acknowledged. Many business people and individuals who had the means to support the opposition party had visits from IRB officers.
“The visits were a way of preventing them from financing opposition parties,” added the prime minister.
In the meantime, Mahathir said he was unhappy with the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s policy related to banking institutions.
“Right now, to prevent money laundering, banks say they cannot give out loans of more than RM50,000 and this affects businesses. It is disruptive.
“We do not want the banks to impose this condition even if it was a requirement by the previous government.
“The banks should consider each loan application based on the feasibility of the project,” he added.
Mahathir also brushed aside claims that the country’s revenue would decrease should the goods and services tax (GST) be abolished.
“The lack of funds in the government is not because of insufficient income. The current national income is three times higher than during my time as prime minister before.
“However, funds were misused. They were used to buy support for former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. This is why we have less money.”
Mahathir said that he was confident that the country would have enough money with good financial management.
The government could also reduce its spending by discontinuing or delaying unimportant projects, he said.
In addition, Mahathir also emphasised the importance of increasing purchasing power, rather than raising the salaries of civil servants.
“If we raise salaries but (at the same time) the prices of goods increase, those with the extra income will not be able to live more luxuriously than before.
“That is why we want to look at the effect on cost each time salaries are raised,” he said.
On the price mechanism for fuels, Mahathir said the government would maintain the weekly determination of retail prices of petrol and diesel while studying other mechanisms.
“We will look at other mechanisms to determine whether the pricing will be based on global oil prices or our productivity,” he added.