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Monday, July 31, 2017

Sabah, Sarawak slam 10% tourism tax distribution

State tourism ministers criticise Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz's backtrack on promise to share tax revenue between Sabah, Sarawak and peninsula.

PETALING JAYA - The revised tourism tax announced by Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Aziz in the Dewan Rakyat last week has come under fire from the Sabah and Sarawak state governments.

Separate reports in Sarawak-based Borneo Post and Sabah’s Daily Express quoted the respective state ministers in charge of tourism as saying that the states were not pleased with the new fund distribution arrangement from the tourism tax collected.

“The federal government must explain to Sarawak and Sabah why their share of the tourism tax collected from foreigners visiting Malaysia has been reduced to RM1 for every RM10 collected when originally the total collection was to be divided equally among Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah.

“This (equal distribution among the three regions) was proposed by the minister himself and later by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“Why has it suddenly been reduced to RM1 for every RM10 per room per night collected from each state?” Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah was quoted as saying, adding he was taken aback by this sudden reduction.

Last Wednesday, Nazri announced that the tourism tax will not be applicable to Malaysians, but foreigners will have to pay a flat fee of RM10 per room per night, regardless of the star rating of a hotel.

He added that 10% of the tax collected will be returned to the respective states’ tourism agencies to support their promotion activities. This deferred from his statement last month on the distribution.

On June 11, Nazri told reporters that Sabah and Sarawak would be the biggest beneficiaries from the tourism tax as “the money will be split evenly by region (peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak), not state because if Perlis gets the same amount as Sarawak then it wouldn’t be fair”.
Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said the plight of Sabah and Sarawak should be seen from a different light considering that most of the tourism promotions of both states are carried out by the tourism boards of the respective state governments.

“While we recognise the need for the government to collect money to improve the tourism industry, for Sabah and Sarawak it is different.
“Furthermore, we have a very active tourism board. All this while we have been spending our own money on promotion.

“So we do hope that the issue will be taken into consideration on the issue of division of tax collected from the tourism tax,” Masidi was quoted as saying by The Daily Express.

He added that this was also discussed in a meeting between the two state governments last week.

Karim concurred, saying Sarawak and Sabah must be given a more equitable share of the tourism tax.

“Sarawak and Sabah have been aggressively promoting their tourism packages overseas themselves, unlike the states in Peninsular Malaysia, where they were promoted by Tourism Malaysia.

“Since this tourism tax is meant for promotion of tourism, both Sarawak and Sabah should not be equated like the other states in Malaysia when it comes to the division of this tax,” Karim was quoted as saying by Borneo Post.

It was reported earlier this month that regardless of the tourism tax being imposed nationwide, the Sarawak government wanted it to be waived for the state until early next year because many of the local tour agents and hotels have made forward bookings and paid for their packages until early next year.

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