Archive for the ‘Consumerism’ Category

Defer Tourism Tax to next year, Sabah hoteliers urge

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Thomas (seated, 3rd from right) and other hoteliers and accommodation providers during the press conference.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah hoteliers are asking that the implementation of the Tourism Tax be deferred to next year.

And if this is not possible, then it proposes that the collection of the tax be done at the Customs entry exit point of all major border crossings, airports and seaports.

“This would ensure that all tourists are subjected to the tax, regardless of who their accommodation provider is, and furthermore, it would be considerably simpler and easier to administer for the government,” said Malaysia Association of Hotels, Sabah and Labuan chapter president Thomas Willie at a press conference held at the Klagan Hotel.

Importantly, if the tax is set at a reasonable level at entry or exit points, it would ensure that the amount of revenue collected by the government would meet the budgeted amount.

He added that if the collection of tax was done in this way, the government can start imposing it tomorrow.

He stressed that industry players were not against the Tourism Tax but wants amendments in its provisions and a deferment on the implication date due to the following concerns.

He also expressed that they were more than happy to contribute their fair share towards tax revenue and to the continued growth of the tourism industry in Malaysia and Sabah, in particular.

“However, we feel that this contribution should be evenly shared across all participants, including those who operate outside the current system, and the cost to collect the tax should be kept to a minimum,” he said.

Among the concerns raised were that the current model of the tax unfairly places the burden to collect the tax on registered hotels operated by the industry members who are effectively tax collectors’ responsible for collecting the tax and paying this to the government.

Thomas also said that the rules governing the operation of the tax do not clearly address how unregistered accommodation providers including those operating under the umbrella of Airbnb would be brought into the system.

“Our expectation is with the introduction of the tax, the occupancy of the registered accommodation providers would be reduced as customers would look for alternative options such as unregistered providers and Airbnb,” he said.

He added that the application of the tax to local guests also unfairly burdens the people, who are already struggling to come to grips with more difficult economic conditions which include the increased cost caused by the depreciation of the ringgit and the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.

More importantly, all accommodation providers who have contractual agreements with overseas wholesalers, tour operators and travels agents currently would only be able to include this tax in the new contracts which would come into effect in April 1, 2018, he said.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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Hotel bookings cancelled

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: Tourism industry players from the accommodation sector are very worried about the implications the implementation of the Tourism Tax 2017 on them.

Sabah Hotel Association president Christopher Chan said that the problems that will come up as a result of the new tax law are very real and cannot be ignored.

Chan when contacted yesterday stressed that if the implementation of the law is imminent, then the government must give the industry players time to prepare and inform their clients.

“We seek a year deferment because the rate quoted to our clients is valid for a year,” he said adding that some hotels in Sabah are already experiencing cancellation of bookings when the clients were informed of the new tax.

“We appeal to the government to defer the implementation due to the legal impact it would have on hoteliers as rates quoted to their clients are valid for a year and cannot be changed until 31st March 2018.

“The other issue is that cancellation is already happening when clients are notified of the additional tax that will be imposed. Should our hotels be sued by our clients for loss of business, who is going to indemnify us? We cannot absorb the tax daily on room sales either,” he stressed.

According to Chan, hoteliers would also have additional expenses as it will need to reprogram its accounting system and train its personnel on the new tax system.

“The hotel will have to engage their IT specialist to reprogram the accounting system to enable it to add in the tourism tax element. It will cost thousands of ringgit per hotel not to mention the training cost to be undertaken for the staff. On top of that we will have to pay the six per cent GST too,” he lamented.

Then there is the matter of unlicensed room and board providers, Chan said and pointed out that the demand for these illegally operated accommodation will definitely increase because people do not want to pay the additional tax.

He added that SHA, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sabah Chapter, Malaysian Budget Hotels Association (MyBHA), Sabah Backpackers Association, Sabah Tourist Association and the representatives from the Sabah Budget Hotel Association recently paid a courtesy call on the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment’s Permanent Secretary Datu Rosmadi Datu Sulai.

During the meeting, they updated and presented him with their concern on the implications the proposed implementation of the Tourism Tax will have on the tourism industry, he said.

by Nancy Lai.

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Hotel operators: Tourism tax model unfair

Friday, June 9th, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Major hotel groups have submitted a memorandum to the Government to voice their concerns over the burden to collect tourism tax from Aug 1.

In a joint memorandum to the Finance Ministry, Customs Depart­ment, and Tourism and Culture Ministry, they said the tourism tax model unfairly imposed the burden of tax collection on registered hotels.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Cheah Swee Hee said registered hotels would effectively be “tax collectors” responsible for collecting and paying the tax to the Government.

“It is not fair and equitable as it does not appropriately capture all participants in the marketplace nor does it tax equally the participants that are subjected to the tax,” said Cheah in a joint statement yesterday.

He said under the current model, hotel operators that have registered with the Tourism Ministry were automatically included in the scope of tourism tax.

Cheah said less than 15% of accommodation providers in Malaysia were registered with the ministry.

He said there were 3,126 registered accommodation providers while 6,452 were unregistered and another 11,698 operators provide accommodation through Airbnb.

Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Hong said the industry only managed to achieve a 35% to 40% occupancy rate in recent years.

The tax would create an uneven playing field and encourage tourists to seek unlicensed hotels.

Malaysia Budget Hotel Associa­tion president PK Leong said the tax will burden locals who were already struggling with difficult economic conditions.

The tax rate is charged on a per-room, per-night basis.

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Report fish suspected to contain formalin

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Consumers who suspect the use of formalin being laced or injected into fish at the market here have been urged to report the matter directly to the Kota Kinabalu Health Department.

The advice came City Hall Director-General Datuk Joannes Solidau following a post over social media by an Inanam resident whose father and brother-in-law started having diarrhoea, skin redness and breathing difficulty after consuming fish bought from the Inanam Night Market on Sunday.

“Yes, I read it in social media, in fact, City Hall has already had few operations before together with the Health Ministry and Fisheries Department to detect use of formalin in the Inanam Night Market and Central Market.

“But so far we have not detected any. This operation will continue but we urge the persons concerned to report the suspected fish to the Area Health Officer so that chemical tests can be done on the fish,” he said on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old resident, known only as Jaq, on Tuesday, said her mother went to the night market at about 7pm where she bought two kilos of fish.

“She came home and cooked the fish, my 58-year-old father and 29-year-old brother-in-law started having diarrhoea just five minutes after consuming the dish.

“Within minutes my brother-in-law’s face started to turn red, at first we thought it was an allergy to the fish but then the redness started to spread all over his body and he began having breathing difficulty,” she said.

She said her brother-in-law was supposed to return to Kota Belud that day and they decided to stop at a clinic in Kolombong where the doctor who attended to him said that it due to poisoning.

“The doctor suggested that the fish might have contained formalin,” she said, adding that her brother-in-law started to recover after being given an injection.

by Sherell Ann Jeffrey.

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Assess the situation before you bid

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

ITEMS can be bought or sold through bidding at an auction. This includes landed property, moveable property and other items that may fall under some other category.

In our country, auctions are more frequently in relation to properties – housing or commercial buildings, sometimes inclusive of the machinery inside.

Sometimes, a person buys an item at an auction because that is the only way in which the item can be purchased. In other cases, people buy items at auctions because they think that they are getting them at a cheaper price compared to arms-length sale and purchase. This is especially so when what is involved is a forced sale.

However, when it comes to the auction of a house or a building, it is not just a matter of going to the auction, paying the necessary deposit and thereafter successfully making the only or the highest bid. Much more is involved.

Properties sold in an auction are rarely in perfect condition. Nor is it likely to be a matter of bidding for the item and paying the full sum immediately, even if the bidder’s resources so permit. Walking away and taking over possession of the property is not what usually happens.

More frequently, an auction for such a property takes place after an order for sale is made by court pursuant to the application for foreclosure of the subject matter. But there are cases where properties have been auctioned without a court order.

This happens when there is no individual title and the property is absolutely assigned to the assignee with power to sell in the case of default. There would be the need to comply with any conditions that may be imposed for the purpose of such a sale.

In some such cases, disputes sometimes arise as to the manner in which the property is disposed. It is contended that even though there is no title and therefore no charge on the property, an order for sale from the court must still be obtained. Even where this proposition is denied, a delay will be caused.

More often than not, the properties that are auctioned are those that have been charged for a loan and the owner has defaulted in the payment of a loan. Thus, the applications for sale of property are more often made by banks and financial institutions.

There are cases where the owner may not be the borrower and yet his property is auctioned and sold. This happens where a person has allowed his property to be charged for a loan or credit to be given to a third party and the third party has defaulted in the repayment obligation.

Once an order for sale has been made by the court, central to the situation is the proclamation of sale. It is issued for the auctioneer, following the directions of the court where an order is obtained. It will be accompanied with the terms and conditions on which the auction is to be conducted and the property is sold.

Once a bid is made and it is accepted by the auctioneer, it becomes a binding contract to purchase the property on the terms stated.

The intending bidder can and should always obtain the terms and conditions of sale, study as well as understand them properly, and be aware what the effect of the terms and conditions of sale is. This is because the purchase at an auction upon the stipulated terms is not like an ordinary sale and purchase, where terms and agreements can be discussed.

It may be wise to seek advice or consult a solicitor as to any intricacies involved. A real estate agent who is experienced and familiar with purchases of properties at auctions could also help.

More often than not, the property is charged to a lender who would therefore be the chargee. Thus, it would be the chargee who will institute the foreclosure proceedings leading to the auction sale. At the time of creating of the security, the title deed would have been deposited with the chargee of the land.

Law For Everyone.

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Consumers advised not to pay for unsolicited items.

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

PETALING JAYA: Consumers who have received unsolicited products from online retailer LuxStyle should neither pay for the items nor send them back, the National Consumer Complaints Centre advised.

Its legal and policy senior manager Shabana Naseer Ahmad said the company’s modus operandi was to link its online advertisements to product listings without prices. Customers were required to register with their home and e-mail addresses to find out the prices.

Even if the customers did not make any purchase, she said, the company would still send products to their homes and demand payment via credit card or PayPal, or for the items to be returned to its headquarters in Denmark.

“My advice is to not send the item back. If you didn’t order it, why should you pay to return it? Don’t make any payment either or they may target you again,” Shabana told a press conference here yesterday.

She said the centre had received more than 50 complaints about the company over the last two weeks, with victims being mostly young women in the Klang Valley.

She said some victims had also lodged police reports.

They were all sent a package of blackhead removal masks, which apparently cost RM150 with an additional RM40 for processing and delivery.

The centre was drafting a position paper to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry on the matter and has also urged the Malaysian Communi­cations and Multimedia Commission to block the website.

“We aren’t saying they are scammers since products are delivered, but their sales method appears deceptive and contravenes the Personal Data Protection Act 2010,” said Shabana.

The centre’s legal and policy manager Mandeep Singh said recipients should not open or use the products.

Malaysian Digital Economy Consumer Association secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said a consumer’s credit rating could actually be affected by not paying the invoice, an issue that had affected victims in Australia.

So far, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the European Consumer Centre Finland have both issued similar warnings, while Facebook Canada has banned advertisements by LuxStyle. Victims in Singapore have formed a Facebook group to collect complaints.

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Smart energy consumption

Saturday, May 27th, 2017
(File pix) Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Nancy Shukri has stated that Malaysia’s nuclear power programme will only be able to kick off after 2030, subject to approval of the Atomic Energy Regulation Bill. AFP Photo

ENERGY plays an important role in our lives. It comes in several forms that can be utilised to keep people warm during cold weather, provide food, improve transportation and increase productivity. When energy is utilised efficiently, it will bring great comfort to our lives. However, energy consumption has been increasing in recent decades as the world population keeps growing.

According to the United Nations (UN) report, the current world population of 7.4 billion in 2016 is projected to increase by one billion over the next 10 years and reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

Besides population, the standard of living for many people in developing countries is increasing, which in turn results in the growing energy demand.

As a developing country, Malaysia is not immune to the trend as the Energy Commission reported that energy consumption was increasing year by year.

This activity does not only impact the the environment, but incurs great cost to the country that relies heavily on this resource.

It was reported on April 1 that Malaysia’s power generation industry spent RM15.1 billion to generate 120,059 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity for 8.45 million customers in Peninsular Malaysia.

To get a clear picture of fossil fuel dependency, the International Energy Agency in its “World Energy Outlook 2007” stated that between now and 2030, the global energy needs were expected to grow, and fossil fuels would remain the dominant source.

In order to reduce fossil fuel dependency, the energy mix is introduced as an alternative measure to face its shortage. In Malaysia, this energy mix strategy has successfully reduced dependency on oil significantly, from 87 per cent in 1980, to less than one per cent today.

However, since the energy mix is only based on other fossil fuels, the dependency on coal and natural gas to generate energy is increased to 87 per cent for both, while only around 10 per cent comes from hydroelectric power. The dependency on fossil fuel can no longer last, forcing us to seek alternative sources.

Recently, the Malaysian government began to consider nuclear energy as part of the national energy mix, since the country’s energy consumption keeps increasing, but the main energy source, which is fossil fuels, is running out.

According to the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP) 2016-2020 under
Anchoring Growth on People agenda, it is stated that the use
of nuclear power as an alternative energy resource will be explored.

The Malaysian Nuclear Agency added that, “Malaysia would further explore the deployment of nuclear power as an option for electricity generation for post-2020 in Peninsular Malaysia”.

It is almost confirmed that Malaysia will be having a nuclear power plant sooner or later, as stated by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, who said that Malaysia’s nuclear power programme will only be able to kick off after 2030, subject to the approval of the Atomic Energy Regulation Bill.

Currently, the implementation of nuclear energy as part of the energy mix has a few challenges as the government and related agencies need to convince the public about the safety of nuclear power, to identify the source of financing for the nuclear programme, to obtain approval for plant site and acquire public support on locality.

It can be seen that the Federal government is struggling to fulfil the country’s energy demand, which involves complicated processes of building nuclear power facility.

As I see it, the search for alternative energy resources is an endless journey if the energy consumption is “allowed” to increase without implementing “green practices”.

“Green practices” can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles, which can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for current and future generations.

Therefore, we could do our part responsibly in society by considering “green practice” through “energy efficiency” implementation in order to reduce the rise of energy consumption. Basically, “energy efficiency” is the goal to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services.

This is one of the best measures, which we could take as our own initiative, to address the issue of increasing global energy demand.

Among “energy efficiency” practices that we could also consider are: replace inefficient
appliances with more efficient ones; reduce loads to any mechanical appliances that require more operating energy; upgrade building envelopes such as improving insulation and roofing, to having good air ventilation to support the natural cooling system; and, use of energy-saving control systems in most of electrical appliances if and when possible.


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Cost of living in Sabah higher, not lower – Wong

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Wong (3rd from right) and other members of SEA during the press conference yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Employers Association (SEA) hopes to bring down the cost of doing business in Sabah.

SEA president Datuk Seri Panglima Wong Khen Thau said this was the main role of SEA which was registered with the Registrar of Societies in Sabah on Aug 25, 2016.

He said they hoped Malaysia would one day have one price throughout the country, including Sabah.

He said it was ironic that despite the higher living costs in Sabah, the minimum wage in the State was lower than Peninsular Malaysia.

He said the minimum wage was determined by the prices of essential goods in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.

“Of course, the prices of fish and vegetables in Sabah are lower than in Peninsular Malaysia, hence the assumption that Sabah is cheaper,” he said.

“(And) it is not true the cost of living in Sabah is lower. This is a misconception.”

He added that SEA hoped to reduce the cost of doing business in Sabah and bring about the realisation of the 1Country 1Price and address the imbalances.

Members of the SEA comprise trade organisations and companies in Sabah who have realised and recognised the value of joining forces for support and protection amid an increasingly complex and challenging business and labour environment.

by Jenne Lajiun.

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A new reality in the global economy

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump takes the stage for a rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on March 20, 2017. REUTERS Photo

RECENTLY, in his first interview as United States president with The Economist magazine, Donald Trump explained and laid down his economic vision for the US and the global economy. This is perhaps his most comprehensive explanation about what he wants to do for the economy, though the United Kingdom-based magazine still deemed it inadequate and incoherent, and considering it more like a business wishlist rather than an economic plan.

Be that as it may, Trump’s grand strategy for the economy, or “Trumponomics”, has three crucial objectives: achieve fairer trade deals; reduce taxes and deregulation; and, spur more infrastructure spending. All these, he believes, will create jobs, promote growth, reduce trade deficits and create an investment boom for the US economy. There are, of course, some issues with his proposal, like how he could get Congress to implement his expansive tax cuts and fund massive infrastructure projects.

Trumponomics is also seen as self-contradictory and has been based on a misdiagnosis of the root cause of the US’s trade deficit. The magazine argues that the focus on addressing trade deficit without improving savings would jeopardise the US economy with the possible reduction in foreign capital flowing into the US in the long run.

While these are issues that can be debated further, I think the crucial takeaway from reading the interview is about his exposition, albeit shallow, on the economic philosophy that underpin his grand economic design. In his own words, it is about “self-respect as a nation”. He further elaborated: “It has to do with trade deals that have to be fair.”

Now, it appears clearer that the US economic policy under his watch will be one that is based on economic nationalism and more of the “America first” mantra, which he had promulgated during his inauguration speech earlier this year. This gives us, at least for now, a very brief vision of what Trumponomics entails, which is expected to tilt more towards protectionist and populist paradigms.

In the Far East, a different vision of the world has been offered. Led by China, it is called the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. The forum on OBOR was held about a week after Trump’s interview.

An initiative that began about three years ago, OBOR is set to transform the 21st century global economy in a significant way. It comprises 65 nations and covers 60 per cent of the world’s population, or around 4.5 billion people, and a third of global gross domestic product (GDP).

OBOR is significant in two fundamental ways. First, it is an affirmation that the gravity of the global economy has shifted from the West to Asia. Second, it is a manifestation of China taking the mantle of leadership on globalisation and free market from the US.

OBOR has captured the “new reality” emerging in the 21st century global economy. And certainly, from this point of view, Malaysia, under Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has read the development well and has positioned Malaysia vis-à-vis this “new reality”. It is about having the right vision and foresight to anticipate what might happen and make the right move at the right time. This is reminiscent of a similar move by his late father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who was Malaysia’s second prime minister, when he forged diplomatic ties with China in 1974, the first country in Southeast Asia to do so.

During his speech at the OBOR forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping set a refreshing tone of a win-win cooperation in a world where populist, right-wing movements have gained traction following the Brexit referendum and Trump’s presidency.

“We need to seek results through greater openness and cooperation, avoid fragmentation, refrain from setting inhibitive thresholds for cooperation or pursuing exclusive arrangements, and reject protectionism”, he said. At the forum, Xi also unleashed an extra fund of US$124 billion (RM536.61 billion) to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa through infrastructure development to bolster trade and investment under the OBOR agenda.


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Defer implementation of tourism tax – SUCCC chief

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) urged the federal Tourism Ministry to rethink and to defer the implementation of the tourism tax which will come into force on July 1 this year.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, its president Datuk Gan Sau Wah cautioned that its implementation might result in “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs”, especially in the case of Sabah tourism.

On April 6 this year, Parliament passed a new tourism tax bill allowing the government to impose a tourism tax on a tourist staying at any accommodation premises made available by an operator at a rate fixed by the minister in accordance with the law.

The government intended to use the tourism tax collection for marketing and promotion activities for local tourism. Gan however said the government could always use the collection from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for such purposes, instead of imposing the tourism tax, which he believed could adversely affect the tourism industry.

He was especially worried that it would discourage tourism industry players from building the much needed hotels and lodges to cater for the increasing number of tourists from China.

“Currently, Sabah, especially Kota Kinabalu and Semporna still do not have enough hotels to cater for the increase in the number of tourist arrivals from China,” he added.

He said Semporna for instance, was receiving between 700 and 800 tourists from China on a daily basis.

“Hence, the government should instead provide incentives and the necessary assistance like asking the commercial banks to provide loan facilities to tourism industry players in the state, to encourage them to build more hotels,” he said.


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