Malaysia's GST kicks in: Less savings, but still worth the trip, say Singapore shoppers

The supermarket inside Aeon Bukit Indah Shopping Centre in Johor Bahru on March 31, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO 
The supermarket inside Aeon Bukit Indah Shopping Centre in Johor Bahru on March 31, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO 

Singaporeans who frequently shop in Malaysia say they will continue to do so, even though prices of many goods could go up after the new goods and services tax (GST) kicks in today.

This is because the strong Singapore dollar makes shopping across the Causeway at least 30 per cent cheaper than in Singapore, they said. The new GST is 6 per cent.

Popular items that Singaporeans cart back include groceries such as instant noodles and soft drinks, baby items such as diapers, and household essentials like shampoo and toilet rolls.

Yesterday, Malaysians thronged malls and supermarkets, such as the one at Aeon Bukit Indah in Johor Baru, to stock up on essentials such as paper towels, diapers and detergent.

According to a poster at the entrance of the supermarket, essential items such as rice, palm oil and white bread are exempted from the new GST.

Singaporean Lim Peng Soon, 61, is not too concerned about the new tax.

He drives to Johor Baru from his Woodlands home once a week to pick up household items and groceries, such as eggs.

"I know about the tax, but I will continue to buy things in Johor. It will still be cheaper than in Singapore," said Mr Lim, who is self-employed. "Generally, I save at least 30 per cent buying things in Malaysia."

For accounts manager Viki Foo, 39, her trips to Kuala Lumpur once every three months will continue.

She stocks up on baby formula for her 21/2-year-old son.

"I'll still save quite a fair bit, especially with the good exchange rate," she said. Yesterday, $1 could buy RM2.69, compared with RM2.59 a year ago.

When it comes to buying big-ticket items such as laptops, however, Ms Foo said she will be more "cautious" as it may cost at least $100 more with the new tax.

For some Singaporeans, the new GST means fewer trips. Administrator Jennifer Goei, 57, has stopped visiting Johor since the Chinese New Year.

The recent hikes in vehicular fees and tolls have put her off making such trips altogether. "And now, there's this 6 per cent GST," she said.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg