|lt is rubbish to say that the government is taking the money to promote Malaysia as a tourist destination, says Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen today. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Bede Hong, June 13, 2017.|
Sarawak DAP has rubbished Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz’s claim that that proceeds from the tourism tax would be used to promote Malaysia overseas and refurbish tourism facilities.
"Coming from Nazri, a senior minister, this is utter rubbish. You can fool maybe some rookies, but as a seasoned politician, you can't say things like that," Sarawak DAP leader Chong Chieng Jen told reporters in Kuching.
The tax, set to be enforced nationwide on July 1, will charge tourists RM2.50 to RM20 per room daily. The government said it stood to collect RM655 million annually from the tax.
Revenue collected from operators of hotel accommodations are pooled into a consolidated fund, Chong said.
"To say this is a tourism tax, that I take the money and help promote tourism in Malaysia, this is rubbish.
"You are trying to fool what? Children or kids? Don't tell me that before you collect this tax, you've not been holding promotions overseas for tourism.
"Bottom line is, the government has no more money. For anything. And it is just dreaming up excuses to collect more tax from the people," he said.
Nazri said the tourism ministry needed to find new sources of income to finance its activities after its allocation was reduced following the global decline of oil prices.
“The provision for tourism has been reduced. However, this does not mean tourism is not a priority for the government, but there are more important priorities such as rural development, education, health and defence,” Nazri was quoted as saying by Bernama on Saturday.
Nazri said other countries also had a tourism tax.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said today that the tourism tax would expand Malaysia's revenue base.
"I personally believe it is a good tax and it will not burden the people," he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, Chong's special assistant Dr Kelvin Yii said the Sarawak government was taking undue credit for its withdrawal from the Malaysian Tourism Board.
"The (decision) to withdraw from the Malaysian Tourism Board should not be misunderstood as a heroic reaction to stand up against the Federal Government," Yii posted on Facebook.
He said the federal government had in January handed over to the state governments the responsibility for tourism in the individual states.
"So coming up with an official statement for something that has happened many months ago should not be misinterpreted and spun as a heroic act. It is just an opportunistic act to play sentiments and mislead the public.
"Quitting the Tourism Board does not solve the issue as it does not exempt us from the tax," Yii said.
– June 13, 2017.