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    Apr 01, 2015

    Malaysians stock up before GST starts today


    MALAYSIANS have been rounding up goods in buying sprees before prices rise by 6 per cent today almost across the board, when the long-delayed good and services tax (GST) kicks in.

    Although the government has told the people that they would not find the tax a burden, economic-minded crowds swarmed shopping centres, digital malls and even grocery chains over the weekend.

    Several smartphone retailers in George Town, Penang, said they had almost sold out the more popular models in the run-up to the GST regime.

    At George Town's Digital Mall, a retailer said the number of shoppers over the weekend was so overwhelming that it had to close at midnight, two hours later than usual.

    On Monday, there were even queues for trolleys at several supermarkets.

    People also stocked up on health supplements and medicine, especially those used for chronic illnesses.

    Fearing that some unaware customers would be aggrieved by the long queues, some supermarkets made it a point to display signs indicating pre-GST and post-GST prices, or hand out pamphlets on the coming hike.

    Restaurant owners are more worried over customer reactions after the hike as some might refuse to pay the higher bill, seeing it as unreasonable.

    Consumers wanting to double check the prices of goods can turn to a new smartphone app from the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.

    The prices of more than 10,000 items and services can be found in it.

    Meanwhile, big retailers said they were all prepared for the GST regime. Giant corporate communications officer Rozalinda Idris said the chain had been working on labelling products which come under GST, besides printing their GST registration number on receipts.

    But in Johor Baru, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce said many businesses affiliated to it were still grappling with how to implement the tax.

    They have asked for a two-year grace period to adapt, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises.

    According to the Customs Department, public confusion over the GST is expected to last about six months to a year.

    The GST, originally scheduled to be implemented in 2011, is expected to be a key revenue source for the government, which is seeking additional income to offset its budget deficit and reduce its dependence on Petronas, the state oil company.

    The impact of the GST hike for Singaporeans buying goods across the Causeway may be softened, for now, by a weak ringgit. As of 4.59pm yesterday, S$1 could buy RM2.69, according to Bloomberg.

    In mid-January, the ringgit hit a then historical low against the Singapore dollar at RM2.69 to S$1, the weakest since at least 1981, The Straits Times reported.