THE 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) starting with Budget 2022 must contain comprehensive and innovative measures to curtail corruption, the core driver of illicit trade and other unnecessary leakages to the Malaysian economy.
As it is, leakages from the shadow economy, particularly illegal cigarettes trade that cost the Government more than RM5 bil in uncollected tax revenue every year continue to weigh down the economy and negatively impact the society at large, according to Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)-Malaysian Chapter founder and president Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar.
“In addition, illegal cigarettes kingpins and cartels who are said to be known to enforcement agencies have yet to be caught and charged. Instead, they are getting bolder and more innovative in their operations,” the immediate former Transparency International Malaysia president pointed out.
“This situation is fuelled by corruption which if left unchecked will be futile to the aspirations and targets set out in the 12MP.”
Undermining social development, political stability and sustainable economic, corruption if left unchecked will scare away quality investors while reducing productivity that may stall economic growth, according to Akhbar.
A case in point is how Malaysia dropped in rank and score in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2020 – 51 out of 100 points and ranking 57th out of 180 countries.
As Budget 2022 is focused on improving governance frameworks and strengthening actions to protect and drive the recovery of lives and livelihoods for the people, rebuild the resilience of the economy as well as catalyse socio-economic reforms, Akhbar recommends:
- A comprehensive framework to eliminate corruption in 12MP starting with Budget 2022;
- Leveraging successful policies implemented in Budget 2021 to further curtail all illicit trade, including illegal cigarettes kingpins and cartels through the use of existing laws like Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA), The Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA);
- Empowering the multi-agency task force with top-quality personnel to combat illicit trade. To date, the Multi-Agency Task Force has been doing a good job but more cooperation between relevant law enforcement agencies is required to drive greater results. In addition, joint intelligence and operations should be improved and carried out sincerely and truthfully.
- Increase awareness and education programmes for public and private sectors of all levels on the perils of corruption for the betterment of future of Malaysia and its people as well as it is everyone’s responsibility to combat this;
- Provide a conducive environment that encourages the public to report any wrongdoings such as anonymous reporting on smuggling activities.
Moving forward, Akhbar foresees that illegal trade will expand exponentially in the foreseeable future.
This follows the revelation by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob that a total of 580,000 households from the middle-income group have slipped into the bottom 40% (B40) category due to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This will further fuel corrupt practices by criminal elements to take advantage of the demand for cheaper products. Therefore, long term planning and comprehensive execution to stamp out corruption must start now,” added the professorial chair at Institute of Crime & Criminology of HELP University. – Sept 24, 2021