KUCHING, Jan 7: The barrage of brickbats hurled against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng by politicians in Sarawak continued for the second day running today.
Yesterday, Lim told state Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah not to make allegations about the RM2.7 million tourism tax distribution considering that as of Nov 30 last year, the Sarawak government still owed more than RM2.5 billion to the federal government, with arrears of about RM50 million.
Abdul Karim immediately hit back by telling Lim to address the tourism tax issue professionally. He said he had no intention to defame, politicise or ‘fitnah’ (slander) anybody.
Abdul Karim said as the tourism minister, he was just asking for what was due to the state and that Lim should not have responded with something totally unrelated to the subject in question.
Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar joined in the firing range and chided Lim for practising gutter politics. He advised Lim to behave like a minister with “class”.
Today, State Reform Party (STAR) president Lina Soo also took aim at Lim. She said Lim’s response was unbecoming of a federal minister.
Soo added that what Lim said was something unheard of in the history of Malaysia, and she described it as an “overkill.”
Then the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) issued a statement stating that the RM2.38 billion the state owed to the federal government was being paid in a timely manner and the Auditor-General (AG) had taken note of this in its annual report.
CMO also emphasised that it was a normal procedure as provided for in the Federal Constitution for states in Malaysia to seek federal funding, whether in the form of grants or loans.
The latest politician to put Lim in the crosshairs is Assistant Minister of Corporate Affairs Abdullah Saidol.
In a statement, Abdullah said the shockingly response from Lim sounded “edgy or rather berserk” because Abdul Karim was merely raising a valid concern about tourism tax owed to Sarawak.
Abdullah pointed out that Lim’s response was on an official press statement from the Ministry of Finance and signed by Lim.
“It was bizarre to read a written ministerial response with such agitated tone. Which state in this country that doesn’t secure a federal loan?” he asked.
Abdullah said Lim, as the former Chief Minister of Penang, should be well versed about the usual financial arrangement between states and the federal government.
“The Minister of Finance is also a member of the Federal Steering Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). He questioned Sarawak Constitutional’s right to impose a five per cent sales tax on petroleum products and Sarawak’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) representatives seemed speechless when the Minister of Finance said imposing the five per cent tax was not appropriate.
“Please don’t ask how much Sarawak contributed to the national coffers. The deliberation about it might cause the Minister of Finance to suffer nausea,” opined Abdullah.
He added that Sarawakians still remember that he pledged to give 20 per cent oil royalty and return 50 per cent of all taxes collected from Sabah and Sarawak.
“At the same time, we, Sarawakians, either sympathise with the Minister of Works or are frustrated with the Minister of Finance for not being able to provide funding either to maintain federal roads or build the desired bridges in Sarawak.
“Sarawak GPS government ends up taking the initiative to finance the construction of those bridges,” he lamented.
On dilapidated schools in the state, Abdullah said until now the federal government still could not commit their obligation to solving this problem.
“On Dec 31, it was reported in a national online portal (The Star) that the Minister of Finance said the country’s economic indicators are “encouraging”, where he pointed out that Malaysia’s FDI increased by 250 per cent to RM49 billion.
“We have to be sceptical about that indication when it comes from a minister who frequently bluffs around.
“Ironically, in the same paper, it was reported by MIDF Research analyst that Malaysia registered a total foreign net outflow of RM11.65 billion last year (2018) — the largest yearly foreign net outflow since 2015, which resulted in RM19.49 billion of equities pulled out,” said Abdullah.
Abdullah opined that the economic fate of Malaysia should not be handled by someone who is still busy playing politics and always coming up with all sorts of lame excuses.
“The federal government should be taken to task for creating too many uncertainties in this country. Until now, the Minister of Finance is still not able to prove intelligently the supposedly RM1 trillion national debt. No wonder foreign investors lose confidence and quickly exit.
“It’s funny that the Minister of Finance talks about ‘fitnah’ or slandering the federal government when he and all his PH comrades are the ones who were extremely busy going around the country before the election spreading all sort of slanders and fake stories,” he said.
Abdullah pointed out that Sarawak’s reserves is the healthiest and a prudently managed one in the country. And recently, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg announced a record budget of RM11.9 billion, where 70 per cent is development biased and rural-focused.
“Perhaps, the Finance Minister should learn from Sarawak’s financial model of how to manage economic and fiscal policies. Please get to work and stop all the political nonsense,” advised Abdullah — DayakDaily