More ‘friendly’ exchanges between GPS minister, DAP rep in DUN over revenue collected in 2021

Uggah (right) and Chong were at it again over revenue collected in 2021 at the DUN sitting today (Dec 1, 2022).

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Dec 1: Despite addressing each other as “friends”, Second Finance Minister and New Economy Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas (GPS-PBB) and Padungan assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen (PH-DAP) were unable to hide their sarcasm when debating on Sarawak Budget 2021 issues.

During the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting of Nov 25, Chong voiced out that the surplus 2021 Budget that was tabled by the Sarawak government and passed in the august House in 2020 had turned out to be a deficit one, with the State expenditure exceeding its revenue.

He said when the Sarawak government estimated a revenue of RM10.01 billion for the year 2021, the actual revenue received was RM7.6 billion, almost RM3 billion short.

To this issue, Uggah in his ministerial winding up speech today said the annual Sarawak Budget like any other government budget is formulated based on certain key assumptions to derive at the estimated revenue and expenditure.

“Therefore, the actual performance of both revenue and expenditure may vary from the estimated budget figures. There is no so-called discrepancies on the figures as mentioned but merely variances which could be explained as follows.

“The actual revenue collected for 2021 was RM7.62 billion, lower than the estimated revenue mainly due to lower collection in State Sales Tax from oil and gas, royalties from oil and gas, dividend and interest income as a result of economic slowdown caused by Covid-19 pandemic,” clarified Uggah.

He continued to explain that actual operating expenditure for 2021 increased to RM5.94 billion from RM3.83 billion mainly due to substantial amount appropriated to State Disaster Relief Trust Fund to cater for expenditure related to various State government initiatives under the nine BKSS (Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang) packages to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

Actual development expenditure for 2021 was only RM5.3 billion, lower than the estimated sum of RM6.3 billion due to imposition of Movement Control Order beginning first half of 2021 that has affected the implementation of various projects and programmes throughout the State, Uggah added.

Chong appeared unsatisfied with Uggah’s explanation, and interjected.

“On the huge variance of the revenue collected in 2021, I would like to seek clarification whether it is because of the fluctuation of petrol prices or because of the non-payment of the (State) Sales Tax by Petronas or the non-payment of royalty by the Federal government to the State government,” Chong asked.

On Chong’s endervour, Uggah speculated that Chong may want to pin it on the late payment by oil companies or the Federal government.

“On the variation, I know you are trying to say that Petronas or those oil companies are not paying the (State) Sales Tax. You are wrong, they are paying the (State) Sales Tax on time. The reason (for the variance) is how I explained to you earlier.

“But indeed, I was very shocked that this question came from a very veteran Member of Parliament and DUN because this was happening even in Kuala Lumpur. When your Minister of Finance tabled the budget, there was variance in the estimated budget and the real budget.

“So my friend, we are friends now, I don’t want to say more. I think it is suffice for you to understand the situation,” said Uggah in response to Chong.

Following that, Chong who is also Stampin MP gave a press conference in the media centre.

“Even though we have become friends but works must proceed. We in the august House, we have to fulfil our duty to exercise check and balance on the ruling government,” said Chong, making his stance known.

He continued to seek clarification on the “shortfall” in 2021 revenue.

“There is a shortfall of RM2.5 billion between the estimated revenue of the State government and the actual revenue for the government for the year 2021.

“That is why I raised the issue because it is a huge variance, a huge drop between the actual and the estimate and for any prudent financial budgeting, that is something that we should worry about and that is something that the Treasury and the State government should look into.”

He said in Uggah’s reply to him, the latter explained the difference was caused by State Sales Tax and royalty collected.

“And when I asked the question if it is due to the drop in oil and gas prices which had resulted in the decrease in revenue for royalty and Sales Tax, he did not answer directly,” Chong claimed. — DayakDaily