No discussion on additional digital fee, says KKMM

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE Communications and Multimedia Ministry (KKMM) said there is no discussion or plan to impose an additional charge for online purchases amid criticisms that such a move would stifle e-commerce growth.

KKMM said in a short statement yesterday that there is no discussion on imposing an extra charge of 20 sen for purchases between RM200 and RM1,000 as reported recently.

Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Zahidi Zainul Abidin had said on Tuesday that the funds raised would be channelled towards helping the bottom 40% (B40) group and developing communications infrastructure in rural areas.

Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa) president Jacob George said the proposal, as noble as it may sound, is ill-timed as consumers are struggling to make ends meet and some experiencing paycuts.

“It is clear that the growth in online shopping, which has been exacerbated by Covid-19, is here to stay. Why the need to charge them?

“Stop using B40 as an excuse and find a better way to raise a fund,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) when contacted yesterday.

“The ministry should engage stakeholders and study the issue first. If the ministry or government continues to introduce extra charge, it is possible for consumers to protest it.”

Former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in objecting to the proposal said it does not make sense for the additional charge to be imposed as the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had allocated RM290 million to improve connectivity in the rural areas under the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP).

“RM290 million for the NFCP has been planned for 152 rural sites to bridge the digital divide in the city and rural areas for equal Internet access and opportunities,” he said, adding that so far, KKMM and Zahidi have failed to update the status of the NFCP.

“DAP strongly objects to this fee as the users are already paying for the fee for Internet access.”

However, Prof Dr Baharom Abdul Hamid said as the Malaysian economy is indeed going through a recession, the government needs funding to ensure all economic stimulus and initiatives can be sustained.

“There are other options for the government to turn, either introducing new taxes, increasing existing taxes like corporate tax or income tax, or re-introducing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which looks very practical and viable, but it would be very unpopular (to do),” he told TMR.

“Consumption-based tax is the easiest, it taxes proportionately based on consumption. The more you consume, the more you subsidise the nation,” said the director of the research management centre at the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance.

Baharom stressed that the people would have no issue of paying more taxes if the funds are managed transparently and distributed properly for the nation and its people.