Malaysia's Upper House of Parliament, controlled by opposition Barisan Nasional (BN) senators, approved the sales and services tax (SST) Bills without much fuss yesterday, despite earlier expectations that these would be delayed.
The Lower House, controlled by the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance, passed both Bills earlier this month. But there was some concern in the government that the BN-majority Senate could block or delay the Bills' passage.
The Upper House, comprising 55 senators, also repealed the goods and services tax yesterday. BN has 33 senators, opposition faction Parti Islam SeMalaysia, three, and the Pakatan Harapan alliance, six.
A Bill passed by the Lower House must be okayed by the Upper House before the Malaysian King will assent to it. With the smooth passage yesterday, the SST is expected to become law by Sept 1 as planned by the PH government.
The Senate debate was closely watched yesterday as this is the first time that the two Houses are controlled by different political alliances. In the past, BN controlled both Houses, making it a breeze to pass legislation.
But there was little opposition yesterday in the Upper House, with BN Senator Ong Chong Swen saying debates over the sales tax Bill had little meaning as a finance or a taxation-related Bill, also known as a "money Bill", can be implemented without the Senate's approval.
With the easy nod yesterday, analyst Adib Zalkapli of political risk consultancy Vriens and Partners said: "There is a leadership vacuum among the BN senators. Without leadership and organisation, BN's majority in the Upper House is useless."