KUCHING: The implementation of tourism tax is unavoidable since it has already been passed in Parliament, and Sarawak will abide by it.
However, the state wants its share of nationwide revenue from tourism tax collection to be channelled straight to the state government and not diverted elsewhere.
Stating this yesterday, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said Sarawak wants a win-win formula for the collection and distribution of the tax. The state’s stand was communicated to the federal government during a recent meeting between Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He disclosed that based on the outcome of that meeting, which took place few days ago, Najib has assured the tourism tax collection will be distributed among the three regions of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
“We want our share from the tourism tax collection to go straight to the state government and not be channeled through other agencies or any other means.
“As long as the tax collection is not for other purposes such as paying off debts, then it is a good thing,” he told a press conference here yesterday. Also present was the ministry’s Permanent Secretary Datu Ik Pahon Joyik.
He said the tourism tax issue was discussed at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, and he was asked by the Chief Minister to address the media on the decision already made by the state government.
Karim was however skeptical the tax could be imposed on July 1 as announced by federal Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, as the implementation needs to be further refined.
“There is not much time left. From today, there is one more week left before the month of July begins. It (to implement the tax collection) might not be practical (to do it in July).
“We want the implementation to be done smoothly. The hoteliers must know how the tax collection is to be done, and the ministry involved or the Customs must provide ample notice to the hoteliers on this matter.
“Nevertheless, it is up to the federal government to decide on the date of implementation,” he said.
He added that based on Abang Johari’s meeting with Najib, it was stated that locals will be exempted from paying the tourism tax if they stay in hotels rated three stars and below, as well as in BnBs and homestays.
“To me, this will not burden our locals as there are many budget hotels rated three starts and below especially in rural and small towns, where they have to stay during trips. However, locals staying in four star and five star hotels will have to pay. Foreigners will have to pay the tax when they stay in all rated hotels.
“The tax is not applicable in BnB (bed and breakfast) and homestays,” he said.
On his spat with Nazri, Karim said there is no need for him to apologise to the the federal minister, adding that he has no personal problems with Nazri.
“I respect him, because he is much senior. The only chat I ever had with him was many years ago before I became a YB (elected representative), when I was a MARA student talking to him when he was chairman of MARA. I am not sure if he still remembers that meeting,” he said.
He also mentioned that contrary to what Nazri had said, Sarawak has many hotels and Miri in fact has at least two five-star hotels namely Marriot and Pullman.
Source : The Borneo Post