Barisan Nasional (BN) is bringing pressure to bear on Lim Guan Eng.
Earlier today, the coalition’s strategic communications team repeated a call it made last Friday for the Chief Minister of Penang to come clean on his administration’s revenue streams.
This, said the team, was to justify the state’s fiscal surpluses despite the steep rise in operational costs – by as much as 500 percent – since the DAP took over in 2008.
“Is it from Federal Government funding, from taxing Penang people five times more via increases in assessment rates, fines or increasing water rates four times? Or is it from increasing sales of state land and assets?
“If the additional revenue is indeed from sale of state land and assets, why can’t the Penang Government sell one more piece of land valued at RM1 billion or above to avoid borrowing from EXIM bank of China and incurring interest costs?” the team asked.
The call comes amid concerns that the DAP-led government was cash-strapped and forced to borrow money from China’s EXIM bank for development projects.
According to UMNO’s Dato’ Seri Zainal Abidin Osman, all state development projects within the state should be financed using revenue from the sale of land and not by borrowing from foreign banks.
In a statement issued last Sunday, Zainal cited news reports claiming the state government had reaped profits amounting to RM12.5 billion from the sale of land alone.
This, he said, was unprecedented.
“In its entire administration of Penang, Barisan Nasional (BN) had never resorted to borrowings from overseas, more so when Lim has the revenue from land sales. Since the Chief Minister had also reported having surplus budget as well as reserves of about RM1.2 billion, why the sudden need to borrow?” he asked.
Zainal joined the ranks of other BN leaders who watered down Guan Eng’s insistence that the fiscal surpluses recorded were the result of prudence in management by the state government.
One such leader is Dato’ Liang Teck Meng.
Last January, the Gerakan secretary-general accused Guan Eng of performing accounting acrobatics to stylize figures in ways that registered hefty budget surpluses but concealed the actual impact the sale of land had on the state’s economic health.
This, said Liang, was how the Chief Minister misled people into thinking that the state’s administration was doing a good job at streaming revenue into its coffers.
“I provided various figures to prove that it (the surplus) was (dubious) and asked him to teach me his ‘special maths’,” he said.
Guan Eng has been vehement in denying such claims, insisting that the state’s fiscal performance was not tied to the sale of state land as the proceeds of such sales were channeled to the state’s Public and Affordable housing fund.