KUCHING, Oct 28: State opposition leaders are disappointed that Budget 2018 has nothing on the promised devolution of powers to the Sarawak government.
“There is no fiscal arrangement in place for the implementation of the devolution of powers to the Sarawak government, which is an indication that the federal government is not sincere in promising to devolve powers to us,” said Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian.
Advocating arrangements based on the Scottish model, Baru was hoping that the state would be given a lump sum of the budget allocation for spending, instead of getting allocations from the federal ministries, when they make the distributions to the various states.
“This model is not consistent with our position as equal partners in the Federation, and it again shows that the government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is only good at paying lip service to our demands,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Sarawak DAP secretary Violet Yong is also disappointed that is no indication of devolution of power from Putrajaya in the Budget 2018.
“Sarawakians basically are not surprised for not being benefited through the Budget because Sarawak is BN’s safe deposit. The people are still suffering, the debt is rocketing,” said the Pending state assemblywoman.
She said Pakatan Harapan’s alternative budget planned to demolish GST, but Najib’s government continues to spend without easing the people’s burden.
Meanwhile, state PAS commissioner Jofri Jaraiee is worried about the deficit in Budget 2018 as the BN government had been tabling a budget deficit without fail since 1997.
The project expenditure is RM 282.3 billion, even though the projected revenue for 2018 is only RM 239.9 billion, which shows a RM42.4 billion deficit.
“There is not much for rural areas especially Sabah and Sarawak,” said Jofri, adding that the budget was apparently to fish for votes at the expense of increasing national debt.
Sarawak Pakatan Harapan chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s special assistant Dr Kelvin Yii said this ‘election budget’ was within expectation in giving out election goodies.
“The Prime Minister did not disappoint with announcements such as the increase of bonuses for government servants up to RM1,500 as well as for pensioners up to RM750 as well as income tax (reduction) for the middle class M40 up to 2 per cent. This was an expected move to shore up the traditional support base of the ruling government in view of the upcoming general elections.”
Dr Yii said the budget shows that the BN government was not serious about giving Sarawak autonomy and fiscal decentralisation.
“There was no mention of the return of 20 per cent of our oil royalty although there was a resolution passed in DUN Sarawak years ago. There were no signs of returning revenues required to run our Education Department in our demands for greater autonomy in the state,” he said.
Dr Yii said the reality was that the BN government was not serious about returning autonomous powers to the state.
“They are more interested in dishing out ‘short-term’ goodies to win an election at the expense of the long-term interests of the state. This is in contrast to Pakatan Harapan’s alternative budget where we show our seriousness in recognising the autonomous powers of our state on top of returning 20 per cent of our oil royalty.”
In 2014, the State Legislative assembly approved a motion requesting the federal government to increase oil and gas royalty to the state from the present five per cent to 20 per cent. — DayakDaily