Govt to implement departure levy after haj 2019, says finance minister

Lim also clarifies that the levy will only be applicable to air travellers leaving Malaysia


THE proposed departure levy to be imposed on all outbound travellers leaving Malaysia will be implemented after this year’s haj season and is only applicable to air travellers, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

He said the government will make a final decision on the rate of the departure tax later as it is currently focusing on tabling the related legislature.

“This is just to put the infrastructure in place. I think we will not be implementing it so quickly. It will still be a few more months.

“We will announce the rate later. If possible, after haj this year,” he told reporters after officiating the Credit Guarantee Corp Malaysia Bhd (CGC) SME Awards 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Lim also clarified that the levy will only be applicable to air travellers leaving Malaysia as it is “nothing related to road or ports”.

The Departure Levy Bill 2019 was tabled for its first reading in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday.

If passed by legislators, the bill will see all outbound travellers — be they locals or foreigners — be charged with a designated fee beginning June this year.

The idea to charge air travellers leaving the country was first mooted in Budget 2019 by Lim.

He proposed that the levy be imposed from June 1, 2019, at a rate of RM20 per person for those flying to Asean countries and RM40 to other countries.

According to the bill, any person who leaves Malaysia will be taxed and the operator of any carrier shall collect the levy on behalf of the government.

Lim also said the levy will be waived for Muslims performing the haj and umrah for the first time respectively.

“We will announce a formula, but it’s one-time only…the same goes for non-Muslims. For Muslims, they have haj and umrah,” he added.

At the Dewan Rakyat debate on the bill yesterday, one of the concerns surrounding the departure levy was its impact on those travelling overseas for religious purposes.

Meanwhile, Lim said the government’s 10-year RM17.8 billion bailout of Lembaga Tabung Haji (TH) is manageable based on the cost savings to be gleaned from downsizing certain large-scale projects.

“We have looked at our finances and this is something that we can manage. It is also necessary to bail out TH. As the government, we have to support both the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) and TH where the previous government did wrong that caused such huge losses.

“This is why when we talk about how we have so much savings, all these savings just disappear. We cut costs for the Mass Rapid Transit Line 2 and the Light Rail Transit Line 3. When people ask where the savings go, now you know,” he said.

Separately, CGC is confident of achieving its target of guaranteeing RM4.6 billion in financing to 9,800 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) this year.

Its total guaranteed financing for 2018 came in at RM3.7 billion reaching 9,000 SMEs, versus the group’s target of RM4.9 billion.

“I am confident that 2019 will be a better year than 2018. We have also seen very good traction from imSME, our online loan and financing referral platform that is seeing 1,000 visitors a day,” CGC president and CEO Datuk Mohd Zamree Mohd Ishak said.

Meanwhile, CGC chief business officer Leong Weng Choong added that the group guaranteed RM1 billion in financing to 2,400 SMEs as at end-March this year.