By BORNEOTODAY REPORTERS
KOTA KINABALU: The collection of tourism tax only reveals the desperation of the federal government to cover shortfalls in its revenue budget, a state opposition lawmaker has claimed.
Bingkor Assemblyman, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan also said the federal government should reconsider the hastily imposed tourism tax, as it will only kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
How desperate is the federal government short of funds, Jeffrey who is the president of Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) in response to the fiery debate on the tourism tax.
In a statement Sunday, Jeffrey said: “Before this, there was withdrawal of tens of billions of ringgit in subsidies, slashing of budget allocations, closing of tourism offices, teachers training institutes.
“They were also asking government departments to reduce spending to reduce operating expenditure. Now, they have imposed the tourist tax, to bring in additional revenue.
“Does it mean that the federal revenues are grossly inflated and they are now desperately in need of the tourist tax to make up some of the shortfall?”
According to Jeffrey, if the projected revenues were true and there is no shortfall, there should be enough for 2017 and there would be no need to impose the tourist tax.
Moreover, he said, the tourist tax is actually a hotel tax in disguise and should fall under the category of buildings under Local Government and not Tourism. Local governments, said Jeffrey, is strictly under the jurisdiction of the State government.
Jeffrey said that in Sabah, there is a heavy reliance on the tourism industry and many Sabahans depend on the industry for their daily living.
“To impose the tourist tax in Sabah is akin to punishing Sabahans and Sabah and the wonders of nature which has made Sabah, in the tourism world, a wonderful place to visit,” he said.
Jeffrey added that if the federal government still insists on imposing the tourist tax, they either need to exempt Sabah or to return all collections of the tourist tax in Sabah to the state government.
This, pointed out, would allow the Sabah government to utilise the tax collected to further improve the tourism sector in the state.