The war of words over the goods and service tax escalated yesterday after a senior government official accused lawmakers of being short-sighted and irresponsible in blocking the proposed levy. Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Frederick Ma Si-hang said people opposing the GST should look beyond their own interests, adding that there needed to be a solution to the narrow tax base and ageing population. He insisted the consultation on the GST would continue until March as planned, even if lawmakers were poised to pass a motion against the proposed tax on Wednesday. The remarks came as the government prepares, in a bid to counter unfavourable public opinion, to release detailed examples of how taxpayers could be better off in other areas after the GST is introduced. The government has estimated a 5 per cent charge would bring net revenue of HK$20 billion a year. Officials have pledged to reduce profits and salaries taxes as a trade-off. Mr Ma, speaking on Commercial Radio, attacked lawmakers for rejecting the GST, saying it was a vote-grabbing exercise. 'Sometimes I think our lawmakers are too short-sighted,' he said. 'I even dare say they do that for votes. It would be irresponsible to make us shelve the consultation.' While he said it was understandable that people would object to new taxes, he hoped the public would not just focus on their own interests. 'If people just focus on themselves, who's going to work for the common good?' he asked. Democratic Party legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan said the government did not know what impact the GST would have on the poor. 'The gap between the rich and poor is getting bigger and yet Mr Ma has failed to appreciate that. Who's lacking vision?' he said. Liberal Party vice-chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said Mr Ma had no grounds to attack lawmakers. She said opinion polls showed public opposition had risen from 60 to nearly 80 per cent over the past few months. On Wednesday, the three key voting blocs in the Legislative Council - the Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - are expected to support a motion rejecting the GST. Although the motion is not legally binding, the united front will put the government in a difficult position. Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum, who is tabling the motion, said opinion against an 'unfair' GST was clear and the gap between the rich and the poor was increasing. Meanwhile, Legco banking representative and executive councillor David Li Kwok-po will table an amendment saying the consultation should continue. His amendment also suggests the council oppose the GST if there are other feasible options acceptable to the public for broadening the tax base. A government official said: 'The community should have a rational discussion on how to widen the tax base if not to introduce a GST.'