KUALA LUMPUR: The Dewan Rakyat today passed the controversial Departure Levy Bill 2019, a day after it was tabled for a second reading.
Under the proposed law, a levy of RM20 is imposed on any person leaving Malaysia and travelling to other Asean countries, and RM40 for those going to other countries.
In Budget 2019, Putrajaya had proposed a departure levy on all air travellers leaving the country from June 1, 2019, saying it was to encourage the development of domestic tourism.
The levy would be on top of the RM73 passenger service charge (PSC) already imposed by airports.
Deputy Finance Minister Amiruddin Hamzah, in his winding-up speech, said that the levy only applied to those flying out of the country.
This was despite pressure from several lawmakers, such as Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) and Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man (PAS-Kubang Kerian), for the type of travel to be specified, in order to avoid dispute and confusion.
At present, the bill states that the levy will be imposed on any person leaving Malaysia, but does not state the mode of transport.
“We make it specific, that it is only by air, so that it cannot be abused by other people after this.
“It will also put to rest the notion that there is a sinister move to impose this levy on pedestrians, train users, car users and ship passengers,” Wee said.
Tuan Ibrahim agreed, saying there should be clarity, not ambiguity, in the bill.
“The bill needs to be clear. We do not need to be in a situation which is vague. Putrajaya should specify that it only applies to air travel, as Ayer Hitam proposed.
“Of course, I would rather there not be a departure levy, but we accept the need for one. So, you need to be clear so as to prevent any wrong perceptions,” Ibrahim said.
Amiruddin (PH-Kubang Pasu) reiterated that the bill covered a broad scope, and proviso clauses would be used to give exemptions and reductions.
He also agreed with concerns raised by lawmakers that the levy would impact Malaysians going overseas to work daily, such as to Singapore and Brunei.
He also assured the MPs that the minister concerned does not have absolute powers to give exemptions or make changes, as this would still have to go through the Cabinet, gazettement and also tabled in the Dewan Rakyat.
“Do not worry. Pakatan Harapan (PH) ministers, with the powers given to us, will use them as best as possible.
“Before a decision is made, we will get the mandate from Cabinet. We will not abuse our power,” he said.
The bill was subsequently passed in the lower house, with deputy speaker Rashid Hasnon presiding.
The bill states that the levy shall be due when the person leaves Malaysia, and that the minister may fix the rate of the levy to be charged. It also states that the minister may vary or amend the rate of the levy.
The rate will then be presented in the Dewan Rakyat.
The bill proposes that anyone who does not pay the levy upon leaving Malaysia will have committed an offence and, upon conviction, be liable to a maximum fine of RM500,000, up to three years in jail, or both.
It also states that anyone who in any way assaults, obstructs, hinders, threatens or molests a customs officer in the discharge of his functions under the act, or who fails to give reasonable facilities or assistance to any customs officer, will be liable to a maximum three years in jail, a fine of up to RM500,000, or both.
Operators carrying passengers are responsible to register under the act no less than 30 days before the commencement of operations.
Foreign operators, meanwhile, are to appoint an agent to act on their behalf.
Failure by either to do so will subject the operators to a maximum RM100,000 fine, up to one year’s jail, or both.