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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sarawak minister to Nazri: Only PM can defer tourism tax, not you



Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah has said that only Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his capacity as finance minister, has the right to defer the implementation of the tourism tax.
This came after federal Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz announced that the launch of the tourism tax may be postponed by one month to Aug 1, as the government is not ready to implement it yet.
Abdul Karim, who had engaged in a row over the tax’s introduction into Sarawak with Nazri earlier this month, said it is not for his federal counterpart to announce the deferral date to implement the tourism tax.
The Tourism Tax Act 2017 stipulates that only the finance minister has the power to exempt or defer the tax's implementation, Abdul Karim was quoted as saying by Borneo Post today.
“The right to defer the date (for the implementation of tourism tax) is held by the prime minister in his capacity as the minister of finance, and not the tourism minister who earlier claimed that the enforcement of the tourism tax is on July 1, and is now suddenly deferring it to Aug 1. 
“We must remember that it was not the finance ministry or the prime minister who came up with the date July 1," he said.
Section 1(2) of the Tourism Tax Act states that the Act will come into operation on a date to be announced by the finance minister by notification in the Federal Government Gazette.
Yesterday, Nazri was reported by Sin Chew Daily on the possibility of postponing the hotel tax, which is part of the Tourism Tax Act. The Umno minister said Malaysians who stay at hotels rated three-star and below are exempted from the levy.
When contacted today, Nazri, however declined to comment on the issue. 
"Just check with MyCeb (Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau) and Customs Department," he said in a text message in reply to Malaysiakini today.
The Tourism Tax Act was passed by the Dewan Rakyat on April 6 this year. The new Act will see additional rates of between RM2.50 and RM20 being charged for a night's accommodation in a hotel. 
The government is expected to collect RM654.62 million, if the occupancy rate for the 11 million hotel rooms in the country reaches 60 per cent. 
Abdul Karim had previously voiced his disapproval over the hotel tax, which led to the spat between Nazri and Sarawak politicians. 
The matter was resolved in the cabinet meeting two weeks ago, after Najib met Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg. 
Abang Johari said the state government, which is currently holding discussions with the federal government on the mechanisms to disburse revenue from the collection of the tourism tax, would not enforce the new tax on July 1.
Consultation needed
Meanwhile, Abdul Karim described reports that 3,000 Chinese tourists had cancelled their trips to Malaysia in favour of Thailand as “alarming”.
He said the matter had been brought to his attention by the Malaysian Association of Hotels, which led to him asking the federal government to defer implementing the tourism tax. 
Earlier, Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Maceos) acting vice-president Gracie Geikie had been reported as saying that the tourists had cancelled their plans because they would be required to pay an additional RM100,000 as a result of the new tax.
Abdul Karim said next week he would be going to Sabah to further deliberate on a joint approach by the two East Malaysian states towards the controversial tax.
“It is not to oppose the tax in total, but we want a consultation (with the federal government) as it affects the state as well as tourism players in the state. 

"We know for sure that the tourism tax is being imposed in many countries in the world, but rushing through the tax’s implementation can have some adverse effects,” he said.
“Many packages were arranged during Matta Fair in February and March 2017 which are still valid until Dec 31, 2017. But then, who is going to bear the ‘extras’ from the tourism tax? Apart from that, the method by which the tax will be collected and disbursed has also not been finalised.
“The industry players and hotels have not been informed about the mechanism by which the tax will be implemented, among other things. Maybe the federal minister (Nazri) being the veteran minister could enlighten us on this,” added Abdul Karim.- Mkini

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