Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and state opposition leader Jahara Hamid are on a verbal warpath over the huge hike in Budget 2017 allocation to the chief minister and state secretariat offices (P01).
Denying her claims as baseless allegations, Lim (DAP-Air Putih) described Jahara (BN-Teluk Ayer Tawar) as a "liar" for making a false claim that the budget was a "manipulation" of figures.
"How can you say it is a manipulation of figures when our finances have been verified by the auditor-general?" Lim asked at a press conference today at the State Legislative Assembly.
"We are one of the earliest states to present our financial statements compared to other states," claimed the DAP secretary-general.
Yesterday, Lim's clarification that the huge hike in allocation to P01 (chief minister and state secretariat offices) was due to loan facilities to Penang Development Corporation (PDC) failed to satisfy Jahara.
He had said the actual expenditure for P01 was not much different from this year’s RM161,588,160.
The hike to RM707,611,840, in the budget, he explained, was due to loans to PDC.
Lim said PDC, a state agency, will use the RM609.9 million loan for land acquisition and development of Seberang Perai.
“PDC will repay the loan in stages; and when it pays back the money, we will channel RM150 million for flood mitigation, another RM50 million will come from Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP), while the remaining RM20 million from the Penang Island City Council, making it a total of RM220 million,” he said.
Jahara fought back by maintaining that Lim, as an accountant, had allegedly manipulated the figures stated in his budget.
She asked Lim to state the actual plan for PDC to repay the loan.
“Where will the money be placed? It cannot be placed under income as it is not a productivity,” Jahara told reporters outside the state opposition’s office at the state assembly.
Jahara said it is unusual to use the allocation from P01 for land acquisition.
“That is not the way. For years, PDC has acquired land but the allocation never came from the chief minister’s office,” she said.
“He should not twist the facts, he wants to be right in everything, this confuses the people.
“It is normal for the state to want to acquire land, the previous BN government had also done it, for example, in Batu Kawan.
“Batu Kawan is now developing very well as one of the most progressive development in the state’s southern corridor,” Jahara said.
“The Pakatan Harapan is now repeating the benefits from the work done by BN."
Should be used to develop land bank
Jahara reiterated that the money from state land sale should be used to develop a land bank for the administration.
She was against using the money to “buy and sell land” without any plans to increase the state’s land bank.
“Just buying and selling land without increasing a land bank is not a good long term planning.
“We do not just want to do what the developers want, we prefer to prioritise the needs of the people,” Jahara said.
Earlier at a press conference, Lim said a responsible state government would increase expenses for the people to address the current economic crisis.
He added that the state had put aside 61 percent of its 2017 budget for development, compared to the federal government’s 17 percent.
Lim then criticised Jahara for her remarks in the New Straits Times today.
She had said: “Today, the state government increases the allocation and at the end of the year, it will say: 'Look, we have added our revenue’. But the people had forgotten that this was the loan repayment.
“This is a manipulation of figures, just like when it restructured the assets of PBAPP. At the time, the state government said it had reduced the state’s debt but actually it pushed the assets of the state to PBAPP and the federal government.”
NST also quoted her as saying that the people who did not understand the financial figures ended up believing the state government’s alleged “manipulation”.- Mkini