YB Ting Tiong Choon’s Speech on State Budget 2020:
Mr Speaker, the current Sarawak Government, under the leadership of YAB member for Satok, can now be considered the biggest government. This government has the biggest administration with 29 ministers and assistant ministers with more than 24,000 government employees, an 8% increase from last year. In the Chief Minister Office, we have 32 political secretaries, 1,776 employees, that is 33% more than last year with 1332 employees. Budget for Chief Minister Office is now more than RM800 million in 2020, about a quarter of the whole operational expenditure. The operational expenditure for this government has increased from RM2.2 billion in 2017 to RM3.3 billion in 2020, a 50% expansion over 3 years.
The Sarawak Budget 2020 showed that this GPS government has completely lost her direction under current administration. This is the Budget for a pension state, not developing state. There is no actual concrete direction in our Budget. For example, the fourth strategy of “Investment-Driven Economic Growth” and the fifth strategy of “Private sector fuelled economic growth”, I am unable to identify a single item in the budget that is going to provide future economic growth? There is no element to encourage private sector investment. In fact, the opposite is happening, in the drive to increase revenue in Sarawak to feed their addiction to spending, this GPS government is extracting monies, in all possible way, from the businesses and from the public.
New taxes since the current CM in office:
2017 – Channel Maintenance Fee – RM19 million a year
2018 – Tourism Tax RM2.5 million
2019 – Petroleum 5% Sale Tax RM3,897 million a year
And this year, 2020 –
Aluminium 1% Sale Tax RM58 million a year
Land Tonnage Levy – RM2 per tonne of cargo via land transport
Water Royalty 250% increase, generating additional 360 million a year
From this we can see this GPS government is introducing new burden every year for the businesses and the public. Businesses who are charged additional fees will certainly past the taxes/Levy/Royalty to the end consumers, so the result is additional cost to the public.
The 3 new additional taxes will generate RM500 million in 2020, and the Budget provides 200 million to 230 million ringgits for Sarawakians: RM9.1 million cash to fishermen, PTPTN Loan for RM30 million, RM18 million for post-natal care, RM40 million for RM5 discount of water bill, RM100 million for JKKK, free school buses.
In another words, this GPS is a high taxing government, high spending government but the value for money in development expenditures in very little.
I do feel concern and worry with our state financial status. The state reserve, which we have been proud of, has reduced by 10% in 2018. It was over RM30 Billion in December 2017, but only RM27 Billion 12 months later. What would be the state reserve now? Looking at our current financial management, I believe it is still going in the downward trend. In the past 9 months, the revenue is already 30%, or RM2.2 Billion below budgeted revenue, but the spending is continuing if not more.
Mr Speaker, SJK North Miri is a school with 415 students in the centre of Miri City. In June this year, the school and the parents were told that they will need to utilize the private property for access to the school.
SJK North Miri at Lot 549 Miri Concession Land District was given the renewal of lease on 24 August 2015. The entrance of the school was through a public open space. Unfortunately, this public open space, now known as Lot 2308，Block 9 MCLD was delineated to Eremurus Sdn Bhd on 9 March 2016 as Payment-In-Kind by the state government, resulting the only access to the school potentially lost. All teachers, students and parents are now required to use the temporary barricaded driveway to go to school. This access may be permanently blocked by the company without notice at any time.
How could this have happened is beyond my comprehension. I hope the Minister can take a proactive step to resolve this mistake as soon as possible. As a good government who care about the anak of Sarawak, I am sure the necessary action will be taken to reverse this blunder.
Eremurus Sdn Bhd was first set up in 2008. In the past few years, documents submitted to SSM showed the company do not have any business activity. So, if Eremurus Sdn Bhd has no business activities, what is the reason for the State to transfer the land to this company as Payment-In-Kind. Was it not unusual for GPS government to make payment to a company that was not operating? Was this part of the dubious payment by the government?
Mr Speaker, Land and Survey Department issue a letter on 14 December 2017, permitting SJKC Chung Hua Krokop at Lot 1133, Block 5 MCLD to use the state land, which is next to the school, for the purposes of “school learning and sporting activities”. The state land was occupied by Hock Seng Lee company as storage for the giant sewer concrete pipes. The storage materials are posting a danger to the students in the school. Despite several meetings between the related parties, including the Land & Survey Enforcement Officers, Hock Seng Lee has taken no action. The company is adamant that they have the right to occupy the land even though the Enforcement Officer have told them to remove the concrete pipes. In fact, my office have received call from a person, claiming representing Hock Seng Lee, that if I continue to voice up the issue, they will take action against us. To date, there is no indication that Hock Seng Lee is going to vacant the land and is certainly still not suitable to be used for school learning and sporting activities. Will the Minister issue an effective order, asking Hock Seng Lee to remove all the materials onsite and give the property to the school as designated by Land and Survey Department?
Third case. Tanjong Lobang Leisure Park, a 7 acres public land was sold by the State to a private entity for a premium of RM3,168,480 on 16 May 2014. The title search reviewed that this Lot 3559, MCLD is charged to the bank for RM4 million immediately, and it has a long Outstanding Fees due for RM4,731,736. May I suggest Government to take step to resume this famous and well-loved leisure park in Miri Tanjong Lobang and return this public asset to the Rakyat and for tourism purposes.
All the three cases above are example of cronyism, where the public are the casualties. Prime land were given by GPS to the cronies at cheap prices or allowed for illegal usages. Any government with integrity and care for the people will make sure the school children and the public can enjoy our lovely environment, whether at school or out of schools.
Following my exposure on ASSAR in the last DUN sitting, where the public are made aware that the net asset for their ASSAR Unit was 2.9 cents per unit as on December 2018. The news has caused a panic within ASSAR Board of Management. The denial by the management and their efforts to reassure the public were both pitiful and embarrassing. Despite one of the Director denied ASSAR is akin to 1MDB of Sarawak, there have been no creditable explanation on the whereabout of the RM444 million which is guaranteed by the government. It was also claimed by the same director that ASSAR group has asset of “more than RM600 million” under the holding company Permodalan ASSAR Sdn Bhd. However, the financial information submitted by PASB to SSM in 2018 showed the net asset of PASB was only RM191,898,475, a far cry from the RM600 million claimed by the director, and this is certainly not adequate to pay for all the unitholders should all unitholders decided to go for the run.
Members of this House shall take note that, for the first time since the inception of ASSAR 25 years ago, a new chairman for ASSAR was appointed in July 2019.
Tuan Speaker, the RM1 ASSAR Unit net asset has reduced by 66% over the last financial year, from 5.5 cents June 2018, to 2.9 cents at December 2018, and less than 1.9 cents June 2019. Let have a look at the figures for the last financial year. Net Income: negative RM234,232, that is a lost, Expenses: RM6,075,080, mostly expended to management service by Amanah Saham Sarawak Berhad. Net Loss for the year, RM6.32 million.
Is this not enough to trigger the management to act on the predicament? Is this not enough for Minister for Integrity and Ombudsmen to have a peek into the management of ASSAR Trust? Where have all the management fee gone to? Why is the Management Fee charged to the Trust so excessively high compared to the asset under management?
Tuan Speaker, I received a letter of demand from Reddi & Co. 2 weeks ago. The Plaintiff is Amanah Saham Sarawak Berhad, alleging that ASSAR has suffered damage because of my defamatory Facebook Posts. ASSAR claimed that my postings “have sought to disparage the good reputation, business and goodwill” of ASSAR. Tuan Speaker, I raised the financial crisis of ASSAR in this Chamber during the last DUN sitting. Both State Finance Ministers were given the opportunity to reply to the question raised but both refused to reply. I supposed they did not have any answer because any answer will be incriminating themselves in the future. Rather than taking steps to rectify the financial problems, ASSAR instead decided to take legal action against me and in the meantime, try to gag myself to speak on ASSAR issue.
Let me make it clear in this House. I stand on my claim that ASSAR Unit Trust is financially terminal. The ASSAR Unit will not survive at it currently stands. The liability of guarantor to the unitholders has now increased to RM445,738,422 as on 30 June 2019. And as mentioned earlier, the mother company Permodalan ASSAR Sdn Bhd has no adequate asset to cover the guarantee, and so Sarawak government will need to pour in the public fund to pay the unitholders.
Tuan Speaker, the ASSAR financial crisis is of public interest. And ASSAR Unit crisis may be only the tip of the iceberg on the administration of government agencies and government owned entities.
In 2019, the Federal RM100 million rebuilding & upgrading of dilapidated school managed by KKR involved 32 schools with an average cost of RM3.125 million each. However, the additional PH funding of RM350 million but managed by JKR Sarawak can only upgrade 37 schools. That is an average of RM9.46 million for each school, more than 3x the cost of KKR projects. So, are we getting a better deal with our own local GPS government? The answer is a big NO. The local GPS is the government that has been scourging the fellow Sarawakians for the past 50 years. I do feel that the only genuine local party in Sarawak was SNAP, Sarawak National Party.
Unfortunately, SNAP was toppled by UMNO/MCA/MIC, with the wicked, shameful assistance from PBB and SUPP. The GPS component parties have been camouflaging themselves under BN to enrich themselves at the expense of the people of Sarawak.
Sarawak Road Projects
The State government RM11 billion projects on Second Trunk Road and Coastal Road Network are earnestly in progress. Let have a look at some of these project tendering process and costs:
- Batang Kemena Bridge – Awarded to PPES Works for RM467 million, RM74 million higher than the lowest tendered price;
- Sg Seribas Bridge – Awarded to Brooke Dockyard & Engineering Works for RM375 million, RM18 million higher than the lowest bidder;
- Murra Lassa Bridge – Awarded to Pekerjaan Piasau Konkerit Sdn Bhd for RM597 million, RM60 million higher than the lowest bidder;
- Batang Igan Bridge – Awarded to Syarikat Kontrektor Wisma Sdn Bhd as the Design and Build project, negotiation in price but capping at RM285.6 million.
- Rambungan Bridge – Tender open, submitted, closed. Then it was announced that the project to be re-tendered for no specific reason.
Tuan Speaker, do you see a pattern? It looks like if you submitted the lowest tender for any Sarawak Government Project, you are not going to be awarded the project, regardless of your company capability and reputation. Why?
Under BN Najib government, UMNO appointed LBU as the Project Delivery Partners, to oversee the construction of Pan-Borneo Highway. Of course, GPS always follow UMNO model, and appointed OPUS as Project Management Consultant for Sarawak Second Trunk Road and Coastal Road Network in February 2019. The termination of LBU by Works Minister Baru Bian 2 months ago must have upset some members or families of this House, but by removing the crony LBU in the Pan-Borneo Project, the government have significant saving in the magnitude of billion ringgits, enabling PH government to build more road, such as Sarawak Sabah Link Road. Appointing OPUS as PMC in Sarawak will similarly create higher project costs without much benefit. This is certainly money for jam for some insiders. I call upon the State GPS government to follow suit with Federal PH government to terminate OPUS as the middle man and save monies for more projects.
Over the past 4 days, each GPS member who have stood up have criticised the establishment of MPKKP by Pakatan Harapan. Obviously MPKKP has raised your heart rate and blood pressure. It is not because of your concern for the rural communities but your concern of your survival in the coming election. Will MPKKP be the last nail in the coffin for GPS in Sarawak? Will MPKKP be the straw that breaks the back of PDP, PRS and PBB?
To many rural residents, MPKKP is the bilateral channels that they have been waiting for decades. It is a channel to implement the government services in the local communities, and a channel for the local communities to request and appeal to the government. The local community here refer to all members in the community, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religion and political inclination. If any member of JKKK is unable to get assistance from GPS, you are most welcome to seek alternative channel with MPKKP. I am certain MPKKP will stay and any opposition by GPS will be in vain. So get used to it and Deal with It!S
Free School Bus Service
I am glad the State Government will introduce Free School Bus Service in 2020. Tuan Speaker, I have the privilege to visit SMK Baru Miri early this year and learned that the student’s attendance rate is relatively low and one of the reasons was many students have difficulty to have regular transport to go to the school. After discussion with Pengetua and PIBG, and with the fund from Pakatan Harapan Government, we decided to initiate a subsidized school bus program for the students who are less privileged financially. The students may “hop-on” at any points but only “hop-off” at SMK Baru Miri and vice-versa. It was a great success for both the students and the school with attendance rate improved by 2.5% to 96.6%. I would encourage the Chief Minister to allocate more funding for the Free School Bus Service to the whole state rather than only in the Kuching.
Tuan Speaker, member for Batu Kitang has asked our Prime Minister Tun Mahathir to allow Sarawak to conduct the referendum on the question of Sarawak Independence? I think Batu Kitang is clearly confused with that request. To seek referendum on Sarawak Independence, it should be our own State initiative, not national initiative. May I suggest Batu Kitang to request our Chief Minister to table a Ministerial Motion in this House seeking approval to conduct a referendum on Sarawak Independence.
With that, I conclude my debate. Thank you