Karim welcomes latest flip flop on tourism tax

Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

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KUCHING: The latest climb down on the controversial Tourism Tax by Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz showed the tax was ill conceived and done without consultation of stakeholders, Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, said.

He however welcomed the flip flop saying it is good for Malaysians as they are exempted from having to pay the tax.

The flip flop showed the tax was a “rushed job with little thought going into it”, Karim said when commenting Nazri’s reply made in parliament yesterday where he announced another change in the tax policy.

In responding to a question from Seremban MP Anthony Loke (DAP), Nazri reiterated Malaysians would not need to pay the tax as it will only apply to foreign tourists but these foreign tourists would now be charged a flat rate of RM10 per night and per room for all types of hotels and accommodation.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, the rates are fixed at RM20 for five-star accommodations, RM10 for four-star accommodations, RM5 for one- to three-star accommodations and RM2.50 for non-rated accommodations.

“Any announcement that Malaysians don’t have to pay for the tax is good,” Karim told reporters after chairing the main organising committee meeting on the International Summit On Peace that will be held here in September.

“It is something that we (Sarawak) are against. This is what we have been saying all this while and had fought for. Malaysians (staying in hotels) are not tourists.

Karim said it should be good news for Malaysians who are already burdened by the GST (goods services tax).

Sarawak and Sabah are the two states that are most vociferous against the tax.

When Karim sounded Sarawak’s unhappiness on the manner Putrajaya pushed the tax into law without consulting the state and called for it’s implementation to be deferred, it sparked a row with Nazri who started calling Karim unflattering names.

Nazri called Karim a “jagung setahun” (a political green horn) and a “gangster” who should just shut up.

Karim then had said that even though tax is a federal matter and implementing it is a federal decision, consultation was still the decent thing to do as tourism is a state matter and therefore Putrajaya could not collect tax on something they do not have a purview on.

The failure to consult, Karim said, was “against the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement”.

The tax was first slated for implementation on July 1. It was deferred to August 1 after both Sarawak and Sabah protested and called for its deferment.

Sarawak also only agreed to the tax after the federal government agreed the tax would only be shared three-way among Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya – the three founding states of the Malaysian federation.

It reportedly was Putrajaya appeasing the two Borneo states for riding rough shod on the state tourism issue.

When asked if Sarawak would still push for the deferment of the implementation date, Karim said since the collection was not done by the state but by the Royal Customs Department, it is therefore up to the department to state if they are ready or not.

Nazri said yesterday the Attorney-General Chambers and the Royal Customs Department are in the final stage of preparing the last technical details of the tax collection system and Prime Minister Najib Razak is scheduled to make the announcement soon.