Highlights:
  1. Anwar returns to Parliament
  2. 2.2 million foreigners sought greener pastures in Malaysia in 2017
  3. 2018 government revenue drops to RM21 billion with SST
  4. US threatens fresh round of China tariffs
  5. Japan unveils sales tax hike
Anwar committed to Parliament reform Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who returned to the Dewan Rakyat today, is determined to improve and strengthen the position of the Parliament. The Port Dickson MP said his focus included implementing several select committees in line with the Pakatan Harapan manifesto in the 14th General Election. “Priority would be to assist the government by implementing part of our manifesto that is parliamentary reform, our parliament in the past has been considered as a rubber stamp, MPs would debate and endorse whatever has been decided (by the Government). “The new approach is to ensure that Parliament is more effective through the formation of select committees or various other discussions prior to debates, prior to the tabling of laws and this, of course, is going to be discussed. It must be endorsed by the Cabinet,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby, today.   2.2 million foreigners sought greener pastures in Malaysia in 2017 Malaysia was home to around 2.2 million foreign workers in 2017, with most of them hired in the agriculture and construction sectors, according to a report. ‘The State of Households 2018: Different Realities’ report published by Khazanah Research Institute noted that last year the two sectors employed 40.5 per cent of all foreign workers, although a sizeable number of them – 35.9 per cent – were employed in services while the remaining 23 per cent in manufacturing. “However, it is important to note that the official statistics exclude workers in communal housing, therefore possibly undercounting the number of foreign workers in agriculture,” it said. According to the study, the Malaysian labour force was about 10.6 million strong in 2010 but grew to 12.7 million in 2017. The foreign labour force stood at about 1.7 million in 2010.   2018 government revenue drops to RM21 billion with SST The Finance Ministry says the government revenue for 2018 will decline to RM21 billion after the reinstatement of the Sales and Services Tax (SST) on 1 September 2018 to replace the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the revenue from the SST for the period from September to December this year is estimated at RM4 billion. “The net impact, therefore, is RM17 billion for 2018,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat today. Lim said the GST revenue shortfall will be partly made up by the higher petroleum revenue estimated at RM5.4 billion following the rise in Brent crude prices to US$70 per barrel compared to the average oil price assumption of US$52 per barrel for Budget 2018. He said in addition, the dividend from government-linked companies (GLCs) including Petronas and Khazanah Nasional Bhd had risen to RM5 billion. “This additional dividend is one-off, in line with the rise in global crude oil prices in 2018 compared to the average oil price assumption for Budget 2018,” he said. Despite global crude oil prices hovering at around US$70 per barrel, Lim said petroleum-related revenue contributed only around 3.3 per cent to gross domestic product compared to 9.2 per cent in 2009, when global crude oil was at US$62 per barrel. “This shows that the government has reduced the dependence on petroleum-related revenue,” he said. US threatens fresh round of China tariffs US President Donald Trump threatened to impose another round of tariffs on China and claimed that Chinese meddling in US politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election on Sunday. Asked in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” whether he wants to push China’s economy into a depression, Trump said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the US. “I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview, while adding that more tariffs “might” be in the mix. So far, the US has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totalling US$250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against American products. Trump has previously threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.   Japan unveils sales tax hike Japan today announced a sales tax hike in 2019 to address the nation’s huge public debt, despite warnings it could hobble growth. The point-of-sale tax will rise from eight percent to 10 per cent from October next year as ageing and heavily indebted Japan battles to finance snowballing social security bills – especially medical fees. The tax rise was originally planned for October 2015 but was pushed back twice due to fears it could derail the fragile economy. The last such move – in April 2014 – was blamed for tipping Japan into a brief recession. This time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe believes he can avoid a sharp decline in consumer spending by introducing measures to cushion the blow. The government “will do its best to avoid a negative impact on the economy by taking every possible measure,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. However, Suga added that the planned hike could still be scrapped if there were a potentially historic recession like a global slump triggered by the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.