Sabah wants Putrajaya to revise formula for tourism returns

Julia Chan
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Grand Liberty Hotel in Kota Kinabalu August 22, 2019. — Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU, Aug 22 — Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said today the state wants the formula for tourism sector returns to be reviewed after learning that the current calculations gave it a mere RM24 million for the year 2018.

This is after the state recorded its highest ever tourist arrivals last year of 3.87 million with a record-breaking tourism receipt of RM8.342 billion.

“After calculating the shared revenue from the tourism sector, RM24 million was returned to the state last year. When I look at the formula, it does not seem right.

“I recommend that we revise it because based on the current formula, it only takes into account the tax assessment, when we know that the tourism sector actually involves a lot of income — immigration, food and beverage, hotels and property,” he said.

Shafie pointed out that the tourism industry was a big earner both for the country and the state, and Sabah, as a major tourist attraction, was a big contributor in terms of tourism income.

“I am confident that the state’s income from the tourism sector is to the tune of billions. Tourism is the third-biggest earner in the country.

“So we have to discuss this. This is among the things we are talking about,” he said when speaking to reporters after the groundbreaking ceremony for the Grand Liberty Hotel here today.

He said that he had brought it up for discussion with Putrajaya and it was among the topics raised during the Malaysia Agreement 1963 review committee meetings between the federal government and Sabah and Sarawak.

In the Federal Constitution under a special clause, Sabah is entitled to 40 per cent of all federal revenue derived from Sabah, but it has not been in practice for decades.

A special Cabinet committee has been meeting to discuss how the federal government can proceed to pay back the entitlement, as there has been no record kept by agencies and departments on the revenue derived from the state.

Shafie said that the discussions are ongoing and some aspects may need more time while others are more clear-cut.

Among those still under negotiation was the state’s oil rights which were being discussed directly by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the chief ministers of Sabah and Sarawak.

“This is aside from the main steering committee and specifically on oil matters. Discussions have started already, between the three of us, myself, Tun M and Abang Jo,” he said, adding that they had met last month.

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