Penangites Pay the Price

As a true-blue Penangite who loves my state, I am very saddened by recent developments. When Pakatan Rakyat came to power after the last elections, I knew things would be rough for the Opposition as can be seen in the aftermath, but I never expected things to be that rough.

By Masterwordsmith

Malaysian Insider revealed alarming statistics today in its report AT THIS LINK.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture) said today he would be demanding a fairer deal from Putrajaya, after it was revealed that the state contributed RM25.6 billion to federal coffers between 2001 and 2008, but received only RM794 million in federal grants during the period.

In his Christmas message to the state, Lim said the Finance Minister had revealed recently in Parliament in a written reply to him that Penang contributed RM25.670 billion in the form of taxes and customs duties between 2001 and 2008.

“In other words, Penang received back only a shocking three per cent of what it contributed during the 8 years from 2001-2008.

“Even if we were to include federal projects of around RM10 billion during this period, the total amount spent in Penang would amount to at most 40 per cent,” he said.

At the beginning of this month, the Penang CM also fumed over the federal government’s policy to channel RM20 million to state asset manager Khazanah Nasional Bhd to maintain heritage sites as reported in Malaysiakini at THIS LINK and also by Malaysian Insider AT THIS LINK.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in written reply to a DAP parliamentarian said the government has allocated RM 50 million for the purpose under the 2009 Budget, of which RM20 million is for Penang while Malacca gets RM30 million. Both states have areas under the Unesco World Heritage list.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said Khazanah will manage the funds for Penang while Malacca will get the funds through the Heritage Funds Group under the Information, Communication and Cultural Ministry.

What do Penangites have to suffer? Mind you – we DO suffer in many ways as can be seen in traffic congestion, public transportation system, housing amenities, lost of heritage enclaves, the dilapidated conditions of some buildings in inner city areas etc.

Is this the backlash that we have to suffer for having put Pakatan Rakyat leaders to the helm of government in Penang? A lesson for us to remember so that in the next GE 13, we will docilely vote the right (double entendre intended) way?

Don’t forget that recently, the Kelantan government demanded for their oil royalties from the the federal government, but Putrajaya, controlled by Barisan Nasional (BN), has refused. The BN federal government, instead, said it will offer Kota Baru compassionate payments, because it claims Kelantan is not entitled to oil royalties.

State revenue from property taxes remain low because of its relatively small size. With this discrepancy between state contributions to the federal government and receipts from the federal government, the state is definitely and perhaps deliberately left out of the development mainstream. Penangites who pay taxes to the federal government hope to get back what they should in terms of public good, merit goods and support. So what this statement from our CM mean? Surely in Malaysia which is touted as 1Malaysia, double standards don’t exist for the different states and presumably all is fair, but is it?

It was quite embarrassing to me at least that during a recent visit to Penang, Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew observed that Penang was developing slower compared to other towns such as Ipoh or Seremban!!