KUCHING: The federal cabinet’s decision to raise airport taxes on international passengers should not be made an issue unless Malaysians do not mind an annual subsidy of RM180 million on foreigners.
Making this point yesterday, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the airport taxes were supposed to be reviewed in 2009 under the operating agreement between the government and Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB).
“It is either we review the airport taxes or the government has to pay RM180 million every year to MAB as subsidy for international passengers.
“The government has taken into consideration that the review would not affect domestic passengers and that international passengers, who can afford to fly, should be able to pay the taxes,” he told a press at the Kuching International Airport (KIA) VIP Lounge here.
He could not disclose offhand how much tax revenue MAB collected every year.
From Nov 15, international passengers travelling through Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) have to pay RM65 as airport tax while the domestic charge remains at RM9. The international rate was RM51.
The airport tax for international travellers at low-cost carrier terminals (LCCT) has been increased to RM32 from
RM25. Domestic flyers need to pay RM6.
Abdul Rahim asserted that the increased tax rates “are still among the lowest in the region especially compared to that of Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines.”
He added that KLIA offered quality facilities and international passengers should find it worth paying the money.
“All taxes collected by MAB are meant for the development of all airports in Malaysia. Bear in mind that not all airports are actually making profits and the government has to subsidise some small airports throughout Malaysia.”
Among those making money are KLIA, KIA, Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Penang International Airport, Kota Bharu International Airport, Senai International Airport Johor Bahru and Langkawi International Airport.
“The rest like in Terengganu, Malacca, Limbang and Ba Kelalan are all subsidised. And if the government does not increase airport taxes, are we willing to give RM180 million to foreigners?”
He was quick to add that “it’s not proper” to use public fund to subsidise international flyers.
“We can build good facilities for our people with the RM180 million. Moreover, I do not think it is logical to take that money from our budget to subsidise international passengers.”