Selasa, 8 April 2014

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The Star Online: Nation

GST Bill outcome follows heated debate over potential pricing effects

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

THE contentious Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill 2014 was passed after two bloc division votes were taken among the MPs.

The Bill, which will pave the way for a 6% tax to be imposed from April 1 next year, was passed following a heated debate among MPs that lasted two days.

In the first bloc division vote, the Bill was passed for second reading after 118 MPs voted in support of it versus 81 who opposed.

No debate was held for the Bill at the third reading or committee stage, prompting the Opposition to request for another bloc division voting to be conducted.

The Bill was passed by the House after 119 MPs, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (BN-Pekan), voted in favour of the law, while the remaining 81 were against it.

During the debate, Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan said that a survey had been done by the Government on 689 consumer items to study the effects of GST on their pricing.

"Only 10% or 73 products will be more expensive, while 48% or 329 will not see any price changes.

"The remaining 287 items or 42% are expected to be cheaper," he said when wrapping up points raised in the debate on the GST Bill.

To a question by Datuk Chua Tee Yong (BN-Labis), Ahmad confirmed that electricity usage of 300KW and below a month would be exempted from the GST.

This is an increase from the proposed 200KW a month.

Replying to Liew Chin Tong (DAP-Kluang), Ahmad said there would be a one-off 1.8% increase in inflation rate following the GST implementation but prices were expected to stabilise after that.

"We will fight inflation by holding campaigns.

"For those who unreasonably raise prices of goods, we will use the Anti-Profiteering Act and put them behind bars," he warned.

During the bloc division voting, several Opposition MPs held up placards and banners with the words "Tolak GST (Reject GST)".

At the Budget 2014 announcement last year, Najib had said the GST would be imposed at a rate of 6% on selected goods and services, and that it would replace the 10% sales tax and 5% service tax.

Ocean Shield detecting source so AUV can be deployed for search

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PERTH: The Australian ship Ocean Shield is focused on reacquiring the two acoustic contacts which could be from the missing Flight MH370.

If successful and the location of MH370's black box can be fixed, the next step would be to send an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to look for wreckage.

Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy said Ocean Shield, equipped with a Bluefin 21 AUV, is searching the Indian Ocean where the pings had been detected.

Contact was lost shortly after the pings were detected by the ship.

"If they gain another acoustic event on the Towed Pinger Locator, that will be the trigger to launch the AUV with its sonar mapping capability to get a visual of the ocean floor," said Leavy at the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) here.

The pings, consistent with those emitted by aircraft black boxes, were detected in the northern part of a 300km search area between late Saturday and early Sunday morning.

Leavy said they were confident of reacquiring the acoustic contacts if the beacons were still operating.

JACC head coordinator Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) Angus Houston said the detections were promising and the best information so far on the missing plane.

He said the first detection was held for about two hours and 20 minutes before the ship lost contact with it.

"The second detection on the return leg was held for about 13 minutes. On this occasion two distinct pinger returns were audible.

"Significantly this would be consistent with transmissions from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder," he said.

However, he said, there was still a long way to go before they could confirm if the detections were related to MH370.

He said the areas where the signals were detected had a depth of about 4,500m which is the limit of the AUV's capability.

Houston said the underwater search area was calculated by a team of experts in Kuala Lumpur.

'Continuous heavy rain can end rationing'

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Selangor needs a continuous spate of daily heavy rain over the next few weeks if water rationing here is to end.

This is unlikely, said Association of Water and Energy Research (AWER) president S. Piarapakaran, adding that the recent rainfall was not enough to replenish the drying dams in the state.

"The rainfall pattern is not as heavy as it used to be. There might be an increase in this short period of time, but it's just a small increase.

"If we have continous heavy rain over the next two weeks, we would not be going into the next stage of water rationing," he told The Star.

Piarapakaran said rain in Selangor was at a "medium" level, adding that high-intensity rain would result in flash floods.

It was previously reported that water rationing here will end when capacity levels at the Sungai Selangor dam reach 55%.

However, Malaysian Meteorological Department central forecasting office director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said heavy rainfall was likely in some parts of Malaysia over the next few months.

"It can be heavy at times, but not all places will receive the same kind of weather," he said.

Muhammad said rain would continue to fall from May to September, though at a lesser portion – about 100mm to 150mm each month.

He also expected water in dams in the state not to dry up as quickly as in February and March, adding that higher humidity due to recent rain decreased local evaporation rates.

A state-wide forecast said isolated afternoon thunderstorms were expected throughout this week, with isolated rain continuing at night until Thursday.

When asked if the Government could set up infrastructure to divert stormwater from rained-on areas to those served by water catchment areas, Piarapakaran said this was very expensive to do.

"If we want to go into stormwater management, we need to redesign our entire drain management system. There are all sorts of chemicals in them, and we need to ensure the water is clean," he said.

He said he was not confident that water authorities here were up to par in taking action against river polluters, adding that Malaysia had to decrease its non-revenue water and increase its dam capacity first.

Dam readings by LUAS, the Selangor Water Management Authority, were shown to have increased slightly over the past few days.

As of Monday morning, these were: 78.27% (Batu), 53.96% (Klang Gates), 49.35% (Langat), 71.22% (Semenyih), 37.31% (Sg Selangor), 61.46% (Sg Tinggi) and 87.24% (Tasik Subang).

Some 6.7 million people in Selangor face water rationing.


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