PETALING JAYA: PKR lawmakers have hit out at the Tourism and Culture Ministry’s plans to introduce the Tourism Services Fee (TSF), saying the government should focus on reducing wastage and corruption first.
Speaking to FMT, Wong Chen said if the government was facing budgetary constraints following the drop in crude oil prices, then it should reduce wastage and corruption, rather than imposing new taxes to cope.
The Kelana Jaya MP was responding to Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Abdul Aziz’s statement that the TSF was necessary to generate funds to promote Malaysia as the ministry’s promotion budget had been slashed due to the drop in global oil prices.
Wong Chen claimed, however, that Putrajaya has shown that it was unable to reduce budgetary wastages and corruption despite it being highlighted consistently in the Auditor-General’s reports.
Thus, he said if Putrajaya was unwilling to reduce wastage, then in this case, Nazri should be transparent in justifying the proposed tax.
“Nazri must reveal to the public the details of who gets the contract to carry out the promotion exercises, how much it is worth, whether it was given on an open tender basis and other relevant details.
“Why should any hotel owner be willing to pass on these charges to their guests without knowing how the money would be spent?”
Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar voiced fear that the TSF would drive tourists to opt for cheaper accommodation-sharing services like Airbnb, resulting in even less revenue for the government.
“This replicates the problem that the government is facing with Uber and Grab, where regular taxi drivers are losing out due to the cheaper fares that ride-sharing apps offer.
“We should not create a precedence where the government can increase tax on consumers simply because oil revenue is in decline,” she told FMT.
She added the government should widen the tax base by taxing offshore gains and targeting tax evasion and corruption.
DAP’s Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun said the government should not rush into implementing the TSF as many hotels, even those in his constituency, were affected by slower business.
He told FMT that the TSF could drive foreign tourists to take their holidays or business to cheaper destinations in the region.
Nazri had told Malaysiakini that the TSF was necessary to make up for cuts to the ministry’s promotion budget.
Industry players have opposed the TSF and even Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun said it was not the right time to implement such fees.
Nazri, however, said the decision to impose the fee, expected to range from RM5 to RM30, had not been finalised. – FMT