See Chee How
KUCHING: Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How wants the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to enlighten the August House further on the mechanics of the imposition of the new state sales tax on petroleum products.
He said Budget 2019 has already enumerated all the development projects that the State intends to implement for the year, making assumption that it will receive the state sales tax on petroleum products which will enhance the State revenue earnings with an additional sum of RM3.897 billion.
“Much as I pray that we are not counting the chickens before they hatch, I am equally concerned that we may have to resort to deplete our state reserves to finance those development projects planned,” he said when debating the State Budget.
He agreed that with the RM4 billion of estimated annual revenue from the imposition of direct sales tax on petroleum products to be added to the states revenue, Sarawak should have enough to finance its development projects that are needed, especially those in the rural parts of Sarawak.
See assured that he and all his colleagues on the other side of the bench, are fully supportive of a development budget that is rural development biased, as all must put their concerted efforts to ensure that people in the rural parts of Sarawak are enjoying the infrastructural facilities and basic amenities that their counterparts are already enjoying in the cities and towns.
On the other hand, he requested that the Sarawak government look into the construction of shallow under-passes in the main and large cities and towns in Sarawak to solve the traffic congestion problems.
He believed that shallow underpasses require shorter time to complete and the costs are much lower, projected to be 30 to 40 per cent of the costs of constructing a flyover.
“In Kuching, if we can construct 20 underpasses at the busy traffic junctions and interchanges, the increasing unbearable traffic congestion would then be resolved.
“All these underpasses, from a proposal that I have sighted, will cost less than RM400 million. That, is of course, just a very small fraction of the RM9 billion development expenditure budgeted for next year, and the construction of these 20 underpasses can be spread over the next five years,” he said.
However, with that said, See said he was against cannibalising the state reserves by depositing substantial and considerable sums into the Development Bank of Sarawak (DBoS) and using the same to finance such social development projects which will not yield revenue and monetary interests.
“I am certainly worried about the state reserves being depleted, as we are heavily dependent on the earnings through the prudent financial management of our state reserves as at present, the 44.5 per cent of our total state revenue for the year 2018.
“Needless to say, more of our state reserves will go to the Development Bank of Sarawak (DBoS), particularly if there is no quick solution and agreement for the state to realise the state sales tax on petroleum products.”
He agreed that in theory, the DBoS can pay the state interests with comparable rates, and similarly for the loans for state projects while they are still state reserves on papers, too.
However, he said unlike savings in the commercial banks, the DBoS will not be able to immediately return the deposits with them as and when there is a need to recall them if their credit facilities comprise largely of social development projects.
“Taking example from what we have as at present: the deposits in the DBoS comprises of RM3.4 billion from the state reserves, only RM48.3 million from the GLCs, local authorities and statutory bodies, that is 98.6 per cent deposits from the state reserves and 0.14 per cent from other sources.
“When credit facilities are granted for social development projects such as road building and provision of utilities which yields little or no revenues, it is needless to say that the DBoS will not be able to oblige the state when the state needs to recall the deposits.
“The DBoS can continue to pay us may be the 4 per cent interests for deposits, every year, the principal sum in state reserves are good on papers, but are in actual fact, as good as gone,” he said.
See said the State government will risk being accused of operating a ponzi scheme, against the interests of the state and all her people.
SUMBER : theborneopost.com