Sabah raps federal government, but gently, over tourism tax


KUALA LUMPUR: Sabah today threw in its hat in the raging public debate over the tourism tax, which takes effect on July 1, by saying it was on the same page with Sarawak in opposing it.

In a rare rap on the knuckles of the federal government, the Umno-led Sabah government said the former had ignored the wishes of Sabah and Sarawak in going ahead with the tourism tax.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said the state would work with Sarawak on a common stand on the tourism tax.

He, too, said the federal government had not consulted Sabah on the tax and that it had gone ahead with the tabling of the Tourism Tax Act 2017 in Parliament despite opposition from Sabah and Sarawak.

Earlier, Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah had said the new tourism tax was a glaring example of the federal government imposing tax laws in Sarawak without consultation.

His comments against the tax led to a war of words with federal Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz, with others joining the fray to share their views or to criticise Nazri.

Masidi said when the federal tourism and culture ministry proposed the tourism tax last year, the Sabah state government had objected to it and “accordingly informed the relevant authority at the federal level”.

He noted that the Sarawak government, too, had objected to the proposal and that this was conveyed to Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman when Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari visited Kota Kinabalu.

“Both state governments of Sabah and Sarawak agreed to work together to have a common stand on the proposed tourism tax.

“Nevertheless, the federal government proceeded to enact a law known as Tourism Tax Act 2017 to impose levy (tourism tax) on all tourists, which was passed by the Dewan Rakyat recently.”

Masidi said the passing of the Act had created “new dynamics” and a new challenge for the state government.

He said Sabah’s stand on the Tourism Tax Act 2017 would be discussed and decided at the next state cabinet meeting.

On the withdrawal of Sarawak’s representative from the board of directors of the Malaysia Tourism Board (MTB), he said it had been wrongly interpreted as opting out of the tourism tax regime.

Saying many had suggested that Sabah follow suit, Masidi said: “Withdrawal from MTB does not equal to opting out of the provisions of the new Act nor does it amount to rejecting it.

“MTB does not decide tourism policies or laws relating to tourism. It is the marketing or promotional arm of the ministry of tourism and culture.

“Sabah shares the same view as Sarawak that there have been little or no consultations with the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak prior to the enactment of the law on tourism tax.

“Sabah will continue to work with Sarawak to find common grounds in our engagement with the federal government in our endeavour to find fair solutions to the issue.”

The tourism tax is fixed and charged on a per-room, per-night basis, with the amount subject to the rating of the hotel.

For non-rated hotels, the tax is RM2.50, two-star RM5, three-star RM10, four-star RM15 and five-star or higher RM20.