KUALA LUMPUR: An academic today hailed the public response to the Tabung Harapan Malaysia (THM) initiative, saying it showed that the majority of Malaysians shared a patriotic spirit.
“They can be billed as ‘patriotic millionaires,” said Nurhaizal Azam Arif, who lectures at the International Business and Multinational Enterprise at Hiroshima City University in Japan.
He said in the US, the “patriotic millionaire” label was given to those who were willing to pay higher taxes or make financial contributions to address inequalities in society.
In Malaysia, he said, it showed that the people wanted to help the government settle its debts despite the fact that international credit agencies like Fitch had affirmed the country’s credit rating at A- with a stable outlook.
THM was launched by the finance ministry on May 30. It was set up as a trust fund to enable the ministry to manage contributions and donations in a systematic and transparent manner.
This was after Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government’s actual debt stood at RM1.087 trillion, or 80.3% of the nation’s gross domestic product as of Dec 31 last year.
As of yesterday, the fund had collected a total of RM74,695,510.12.
Nurhaizal said the idea for the fund probably came about following public sympathy towards the new government, which zero-rated the goods and services tax (GST) to fulfil one of its election pledges.
“The people know zero-rating the GST will lead to a reduction in income for the government. Besides that, Malaysians may also want to help the government settle the 1MDB debts without wasting revenue earned from income tax,” he added.
On allegations from some quarters that the people were being pressured to contribute to THM, Nurhaizal said the idea of setting up the fund had come from the people themselves.
“The issue of them being coerced into contributing doesn’t arise at all because it is entirely up to the individual to give a donation or not.
“A system of checks and balances will be in place if there’s transparency of information which, in turn, will smoothen the process of governing the nation.
“If the government is transparent, the people’s trust and confidence will soar, and they will grow more patriotic than ever and even be willing to make sacrifices for the country,” he said.