KUALA LUMPUR: A senior Barisan Nasional lawmaker has questioned the impact of charging a departure levy especially for locals who are working and travelling to neighbouring countries on a daily basis.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) said that the implementation of the Departure Levy Bill 2019 should be postponed until it is properly scrutinised.
"For instance, there are thousands who travel for work from Johor to Singapore every day and they stand to be taxed.
"We hope the government can also exempt taxes for those travelling to Asean countries, children, senior citizens, and students studying overseas as well as those who are performing their umrah and haj," he said when debating the Bill on Tuesday (April 9).
The Bill, which was tabled for its first reading on Monday (April 8), seeks to charge a fee when a person is leaving out of the country.
Datuk Seri Bung Mokhtar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) asked whether the levy would give any impact to local tourism industry players.
"We are already seeing a slow growth in our industry sector now, but with the introduction of the levy, perhaps nobody will want to come here (Malaysia)," said the outspoken lawmaker.
Wong Hon Wai (PH-Bukit Bendera) asked the government whether there will be any reciprocal move by other Asean countries.
Wong questioned whether levy will be charged for tourists from Asean nations.
Malaysia, he said, had signed the Asean Tourism Agreement in 2002, among others, aimed at facilitating travel into and within Asean.
"Did the government consider this and will the move impact our local tourism?
"I would also like to know whether the levy collected will be channelled back to our tourism sector for the purpose of infrastructure upgrade and repair works at famous tourism spots," he said.
Hassan Abdul Karim (PH-Pasir Gudang) said the levy would hugely impact those going to Mecca to perform haj and umrah.
"Previously, they were charged nothing but why now?
"Is this our gift to the Malay community?
"I am embarrassed to support this Bill and I hope the government can give special exemptions for these groups," he said.
Datuk Dr Nik Muhammad Zawawi Salleh (PAS- Pasir Puteh) said the move to introduce the departure levy would damage the good name of the country.
"The charging of the levy may affect the good name of the country as if our government has no other ideas on how to collect tax.
"They will 'scavenge' whoever that comes in. Although this is a simple and easy method to collect money, but in the eyes of the world, I am concerned that it will damage our reputation," he said.