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Public Interest Is Top Priority In Solving Prepaid Card Issues

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PERMATANG PAUH – The interests of the public and the country as a whole must remain as top priority in finding solutions to issues concerning the price of prepaid top-up cards, Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said today.

In fact, the Communications and Multimedia Minister said discussions with all quarters involved should produce a win-win solution before the matter be brought to the Cabinet meeting for further action.

“We will find the best way, the most suitable methods and alternatives, which will eventually benefit the people and the country.

“And I want the telcos (telecommunication companies) to give their cooperation and understand the public sentiment because this is a matter that I cannot compromise,” he told reporters at the ministry’s media centre here today.

Ahmad Shabery said the ministry would also convene comprehensive discussions with the Customs Department; Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry; and all telcos for the purpose soon.

Commenting further, Ahmad Shabery said the discussions and reviews should be done wisely as the process to find the solution was quite complex and must take into consideration the problems faced by all quarters.

“As we already know, this is not just about that 60 sen (additional price of prepaid top-up card) or that six per cent (of the Goods and Services Tax imposed), because it actually involves many parties.

“This prepaid top-up system is an economy on its own…it involves the grass roots in our system, it’s like money and the telcos do not sell the cards directly, there are various layers that must be taken into account in the economy of the prepaid system,” he said.

For instance, Ahmad Shabery said most prepaid top-up card agents at the lower level had bought the cards at its previous value and it will be difficult for them to sell the cards to the customers if the value was drastically changed.

“This is among the issues that we need to scrutinise because it cannot be changed in a day or two,” he explained.

When asked about the confusion caused by contradictory statements given by agencies involved, Ahmad Shabery said they issued the statements based on their respective policies and professionalism.

“The MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) was actually trying to inform us that, technically, the process to change the system cannot be done drastically, or in a short period of time…that’s it,” the minister said.

Prior to this, Customs Department had directed telecommunications companies to revert the prices of prepaid top-up cards to its original prices as before the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1.

However the directive which should have been enforced on May 1 was postponed after MCMC chairman Datuk Seri Dr Halim Shafie made a statement that the prepaid top-up cards would still be sold with the six per cent GST added.

Halim said price adjustments to pre-GST rate was quite impossible to implement from May 1 as requested due to the complexity of system reconfiguration.

About the alternatives, Ahmad Shabery said among the suggestions to be considered was the possibility for the telecommunication companies to absorb the GST.

However, he said the ministry would also look into existing laws to ensure whether or not it could be done.

“We will also look into the possibility to have the telecommunication companies to use their profit to help targeted groups, especially students.

“Maybe they can come out with a better package for those who deserve the assistance,” he added. – BERNAMA

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