KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian minister has ruled out slashing auto taxes that helped keep car prices high because it will hurt efforts to cut the country's budget deficit.
Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed says the government cannot "sacrifice" the 7 billion ringgit ($2.17 billion) it earns annually from an auto excise tax as it would jeopardize the country's finances.
The government's budget has been in deficit since 1998. Last year's deficit of 4.5 percent of gross domestic product was one of the region's largest.
Malaysia, the second top passenger car market in Southeast Asia after Thailand, imposes an excise of between 65 and 105 percent on every new vehicle, as well as a 10 percent sales tax.
Mustapa said Monday other measures such as free trade pacts could help ease prices.