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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Corruption? Just tax it!

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:24 PM | | Best Blogger Tips

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Don't fight corruption. License it, regulate it and tax it. Then leave a receipt.
A recent report stated that Malaysia lost RM1.08 trillion in illicit outflows in the last decade.
Though a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, most will probably tell you that the news wasn’t all that surprising.
Some might even argue that corruption (bribery, graft, money politics) is pretty much the Malaysian way of life.
Got caught speeding? That’s RM20 to the cops. Don’t want to do that pesky driving test? Just palm that RM200. Want that business contract? Cough up those commissions. Want to climb the political ladder? Hand over those filled envelopes to your party chiefs.

So if greasing palms is the way things work here, trying to stamp it out the old-fashioned way (the law) will only end in tears.
In fact, why waste your time fighting it? Just legalise it. Make it legit.
Now before you start sending angry letters (tied to bricks) to FMT’s office, hear me out. I am not condoning corruption, much like I don’t condone prostitution, but there are benefits to legalising otherwise illegal activities.
Legalising drugs for example, some have argued, would not only reduce crime but also educate the public and make its use safer.
The same may be said for corruption. Legalising it is only the first step; because once you make it legitimate, you will have to regulate it, and then you will have to tax it.
KARAT to take charge
But how will that work, you might ask? Take for example, Crony Chan wants to get his hands on a tender for a mega-storey skyscraper somewhere in the city.
He then calls up Politician Ahmad and tells him that he has “under-table” for a few million Ringgit.
Now with corruption made legal, Ahmad and Chan will have to pay a “corruption fee” to the Tax Department, of which the proceeds will be used to benefit some public service or another: water works, forest reserves, Tamil schools, etc.
Being official and all, the both of them will also get receipts for their fine work.
Corruption will then be regulated through a government commission or taskforce (God knows how we love to create these things), perhaps named the Korupsi Assistory Regulation Associated Taskforce (KARAT).
You want to do big business or advance your political career? Gotta become a KARAT member first.
Much like Bank Negara, KARAT would be able to collect the necessary information of the money-makers underneath it, and impose limits, tax amounts and so on.
They would (and should) have the ability to self-regulate, and absorb the MACC as an enforcement arm to go after all those unlicensed bribers.
That sounds very fine and dandy but what if Crony Chan decides: “Damn the tax, I’m under-tabling anyway!”?
Then Chan will learn the hard way that if there’s one thing that governments don’t like, it’s tax evasion.
In fact, telling the taxman to bugger off is perhaps the foremost cardinal sin against any government. More so than murder, because even racketeers still have to pay their monthly dues to Abang LHDN.
For the greater good
History has shown this to be true on many accounts. Take Chicago mobster Al Capone for example. Though accused of Tommy-gunning his opponents, Capone was eventually jailed for tax evasion.
Try telling Putrajaya that you don’t want to pay their crummy tax, and you’ll be locked inside Sungai Buloh faster than you can say “Bersih”.
Of course there will be some who will argue against corruption being legalised. It will encourage more people to use money to get what they want, when they want.
Yes, this might be true, though in any case, corruption is already in our midst, whether we like it or not.
Many of you are still going to pay that few Ringgit to be let off the hook, and that auntie’s cousin’s grandson-in-law is still going to become a board member in your company.
The problem many have with corruption in this country is that it benefits the very few instead of the majority. But if you tax bribery and cronyism, the returns might actually be used for the greater good.
Heck, if you keep on paying the corruption tax, you might even be in the running to becoming a modern-day Robin Hood or Botak Chin. Without all the killing, of course.
We don’t live in a Utopian society. So if you can’t beat ‘em, don’t join ‘em. Just tax the hell out of ‘em.

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