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Fall in number of Singapore tourists after JB toll hike: MCA

Malaysia has seen a 5 per cent fall in the number of Singaporean tourists following a hike in toll fees for vehicles passing through its Johor Bahru checkpoint, says MCA Deputy Secretary General Wee Jeck Seng. 

SINGAPORE: Malaysia has seen a 5 per cent fall in the number of Singaporean tourists following a hike in toll fees for vehicles going to and from Singapore, said Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) Deputy Secretary General Wee Jeck Seng. “(The fall in tourist numbers) will have a profound impact in the future,” Mr Wee said in a statement on Tuesday (Aug 5).

Toll charges at Johor Bahru Customs were increased by more than 400 per cent last week. “Travelling between the two nations has become a way of life for (Malaysians working in Singapore), who endure hardships of long travel to earn a better life,” he said. “Yet, the recent announcement of the new toll rates will create a heavier financial burden on motorists and bus operators, as they have to pay more to travel both ways.”

"To make things worse, it is Malaysians who are more severely hit by this price hike, not Singaporeans," he added, saying the raised toll fees could result in higher inflation if SMEs try to pass the buck to customers.

Mr Wee urged the Malaysian government to do more to encourage Singaporeans to go to Malaysia to boost the Iskandar economic zone in Johor. He noted that many foreign companies, especially from Singapore and China, have set up shop there, such that it has been dubbed a "mini-Shenzhen", and that this has created many job opportunities for Malaysians.

"It is unwise for the government to increase the toll rates simply to match Singapore’s move, as it is the public, and transport companies, who will suffer," Mr Wee said. He called on the government to conduct studies to create a "win-win situation" for all.

Across the Causeway, the increased tolls are also impacting logistics firms. Some of these say their costs have increased by five to six times, following the revision in Malaysian toll charges and Singapore's raised Vehicle Entry Permit.

While these companies can pass the costs onto consumers, subcontractors have to bear the toll fees themselves. Mr Puvan, an assistant transport operations manager at Evermarch Logistics said: "I think company drivers can get this toll (reimbursed), but subcontractors have to come up with their own money - the company is not going to pay for this because this is your own transport, whatever cost you have to bear yourself."

Taxi drivers also have to manage the Malaysian toll increases. Some passengers have reported that taxi drivers who are allowed to drive into Malaysia have been illegally increasing their taxi fares. The National Taxi Association in Singapore says it has approached the Land Transport Authority to work with the Malaysian authorities to discuss the situation. 

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