Soo: ‘Sarawak Budget 2020 to woo the rural population’

Lina Soo

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KUCHING, Nov 5: State Reform Party (Star) president Lina Soo has labelled the Sarawak Budget 2020 as “a vote buying” budget to woo the rural population.

Commenting on the budget tabled by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting yesterday, Soo deemed the RM450 postnatal care assistance effective Jan 2020 as too little and insufficient.

“Although it was a good initiative to assist and ease the financial burden of mothers after giving birth, the amount is not enough to purchase necessities for confinement period and the baby.

“Adding another zero to make it RM4,500 would have been a more realistic figure, especially when Sarawak is under populated for its land mass. The extra money would go towards better nutrition for postnatal care of the mother,” she said in a statement.

As for the Endowment Fund for new-born babies at RM1,000, Soo lamented that it is hardly adequate as calculated at three per cent per annum compound interest, the maturity sum is RM1,702.43 at age 18.

“This is an amount which has less purchasing power than before, after taking inflation into account,” she said.

While Sarawak has collected RM5.63 billion in the first three quarters of 2019, Soo believed the shortfall seems to be partly due to the failure of Petronas to pay up the five per cent state sales tax on petroleum products.

“A Notice of Assessment has been issued but the public is kept in the dark on the amount of tax Petronas had to pay and the deadline due. If there is a deficit for 2019, will the Sarawak government utilise the state’s reserves?

“What corrective measures will be taken to boost the peoples’ confidence towards the surplus Budget tabled for 2020?” Soo asked.

If the state award licences for oil and gas prospecting and production to Petros (Petroleum Sarawak Bhd), which is empowered to issue the licences and leases, she hoped the process will be transparent and not only those profiting are crony companies set up to capture the benefit for themselves.

“As the federal government is collecting petroleum tax (PITA) from Petronas at 38 to 45 per cent, apart from dividends, other taxes and income it imposes, it is not unreasonable for Petronas to pay 20 per cent state sales tax.

“This will project the four-fold increase in revenue from RM3.491 billion to RM139.64 billion,” Soo suggested, while adding that after all, the oil and gas belongs to the people of Sarawak and her people have been languishing in poverty for too long.

She lauded the decision to set up Sarawak Coastal Guards but questioned if the RM90 million to protect the state’s long coastline a realistic figure.

“Sarawak needs to revive our famed Sarawak Rangers and Border Scouts to secure our porous borders with Kalimantan and Sabah. The security of our borders is a priority and we need to internalise this, as the federal government will not provide enough allocation for our security and peace of mind,” Soo added.

With respect to native customary rights (NCR), where 52,000 hectares are expected to be perimeter surveyed and 15,000 hectares to be surveyed with individual titles, she said the sum of RM40 million allocated for the purpose is woefully inadequate and unrealistic.

“There is no timeline and the NCR landowners have no idea when the survey will be done and their individual title finally realised.

“Much of the rural population is still in the dark over Section 6 and Section 18 of the (Sarawak) Land Code, which provide good political fodder and squabbling between Sarawak politicians at state and federal levels,” she claimed.

She said the state should have also prioritised on job creation for fresh graduates as the long term solution to tackle unemployment, rather than offering to settle their National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans. — DayakDaily