KUALA LUMPUR: MPs from both sides of the divide raised their concerns over the proposed departure levy, when the bill was tabled for second reading today.
A number of them asked for the levy to be deferred, while others suggested that pilgrims and those who go overseas to work should be exempted.
Under the proposed departure levy, anyone who leaves the country will be charged RM20 if they are heading for another Asean member state and RM40 for other countries.
Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) said while he understood the country needed an additional source of revenue, Muslims and non-Muslims who go on pilgrimage should be exempted from the levy.
“If this is agreed upon, I will support the levy,” he said.
Hassan said those who perform the haj will be affected the most. However, he said non-Muslims also go on pilgrimages.
“Since independence, Muslims who perform their umrah and haj have not been subjected to a levy. Why now?
“We have only been in government for a year. Is this the gift we give the people?” he asked.
He said an exemption for haj pilgrims will also ease the burden of Tabung Haji (TH), which is facing financial troubles.
During the tabling of Budget 2019, Putrajaya had proposed a departure levy on all air travellers leaving the country from June 1 to boost domestic tourism.
The departure levy would be on top of the RM73 passenger service charge (PSC) already imposed by airports.
Wong Hon Wai (PH-Bukit Bendera) raised the possibility of reciprocal action by other Asean countries should Malaysia impose the levy.
He said countries like Indonesia have already done away with their departure levies.
“How should we react when there is reciprocal action from other Asean countries?
“When we impose this levy, will other countries impose a similar levy on Malaysians leaving the country?” he asked.
Wong pointed out that travellers are paying a lot more on top of the price of their flight tickets, such as airport tax and Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) fees.
The imposition of a departure levy will impact travel, he said.
Urging Putrajaya to provide a detailed explanation “as the intention is very broad”, he said those living in the northern region often made weekend trips to Thailand by land.
Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) proposed that exemptions be made for those travelling to Asean countries.
He said hundreds of people travelled to Singapore daily for work.
“I also ask for children to be exempted. Senior citizens, the disabled, Malaysian students studying overseas and those who perform the umrah and haj should also be exempted.
“The levy will have a negative effect on the tourism sector. I propose that it be deferred,” he said.
Hasbi Habibollah (GPS-Limbang), who also called for a deferment of the levy, said a big number of people cross the border from Sarawak to Brunei for various purposes, such as for family outings, business and tourism.
“If you impose this levy, I can assure you the people will be angry.
“Day after day, people make trips from Limbang and from Miri to Brunei to work. You need to factor this in,” he said.
Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh (PAS-Pasir Puteh) said the move to impose the departure levy was not appropriate.
“Other countries are already starting to abolish this tax, but here we are implementing it. It looks as though we are stopping Malaysians from going abroad,” he said.
The debate on the proposed levy will continue tomorrow.