Penang’s Surplus Budget Not From Sale Of State Land, Says Guan Eng

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GEORGETOWN, Sept 20 – Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng today said the Penang government’s surplus budget is not derived from sale of state land, as revenues from such sales are channelled to development of public and affordable housing. He said the state managed to record a total surplus of RM252.8 million from 2008 to 2012, while increasing state assets by 50%, from RM800 million to RM1.2 billion. However, the surplus was not linked to any transaction of government land, he said in his speech during the state investiture ceremony in conjunction with the official birthday of Yang di Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas in George Town.

Penang Gerakan had last month cried foul that the DAP-led state government sold state land in trying to attract foreign investments. Its secretary Oh Tong Keong said the state government had sold off one-third of the state land in just six years in power, with only 8% left. “It is a shirking of responsibility by the state government to protect the interests of Penangites because state lands belong to the people. They are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs,” Oh had said. Lim said today that if compared with the sale of land prior to 2008, the current state government has sold far less government land to developers.

“After 2008, the state government sold 106.1 acres of land through competitive open tender with returns of RM1,110.2 million (RM1.11 billion) compared with the sale of 3,661 acres of land before 2008 with revenues of RM1,058.6 million (RM1.06 billion),” he said. He added that the latter amount was lower because it was done by closed tender or direct negotiation. This meant that the lands sold before 2008 were 35 times larger in size compared with those sold afterwards, he added. Yet the revenue then was less relative to what was achieved by the current state administration which wrested power in March 2008, he added.

Lim said the state has readied a development budget of RM239 million for this year. Since 2011, a total of RM1.208 billion has been approved for various infrastructure and public works, he said, adding that this did not include land given free for schools, mosques and Muslim cemeteries. Lim also said the state has allocated RM500 million to fund the building of 22,575 units of public and affordable housing in all five districts in Penang. “It is estimated that with additional 20,000 public and affordable homes from the private sector, the total would be sufficient to meet the demands of the people and simultaneously achieve the objective for democratic housing come 2020,” he said.

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