KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has dismissed talks of the government keeping a substantial reserve in the bank and not spending enough money for development, especially during this pandemic, as a baseless accusation.
In his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) today, Uggah who is also Second Finance Minister said the state’s reserve for 2020 is estimated to be at RM25.2 billion which is about RM1.3 billion higher than 2019.
He pointed out the Sarawak government is mindful of the need to strike a balance between the need to accelerate the state’s development while at the same time maintaining a healthy financial position.
“In addition to the state reserve of RM23.97 billion in 2019, the state has also investment in both listed and unlisted companies worth RM7.645 billion.
“These reserve figures are published annually in the official Auditor’s General Report which is available to the public. As such, there is no necessity for these figures to be mentioned in the Budget Speech ,” he said.
Uggah revealed that the state’s reserve was reduced from RM27.09 billion in 2018 to RM23.97 billion in 2019 when Sarawak government as an interim measure had to tap into the reserves to fund the implementation of projects cancelled by the previous Pakatan Harapan federal government.
He also said having a healthy financial position reflects the state’s prudent financial management.
“Under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), the State is expected to spend about RM30 billion for development purpose.
“We have been spending substantially on development expenditure to Improve the livelihood of the rakyat especially in the rural areas.
“Besides that, the State is also committed to provide financial assistance such as Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) amounting to RM1.74 billion in 2020 to lessen the burden faced by the people caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
He also dismissed a statement made by Chong Chieng Jen (DAP – Kota Sentosa) that Sarawak had a deficit for the year 2018 as “unfounded and misleading”.
He said that based on the Audited State Financial Statement for 2018, Sarawak had registered a surplus of RM110.13 million that.
“In respect of the 2019 budget, it was formulated as a surplus budget based on the assumption that the projected revenue would Include State Sales Tax (SSTI on petroleum products from Petronas. However, Petronas failed to pay the SST in 2019 even though they are legally obligated to do so,” he explained.
On the issue that the state government is setting aside about RM1 billion annually for repayment of its debt, Uggah said this provision is necessary to service the commitment in financing the state strategic development projects in our efforts to achieve high income economy by 2030.
“These projects are being implemented to achieve the following key objectives: (a) to accelerate the development in the rural areas in order to reduce development disparity between urban and rural areas; (b) to narrow development gap between Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, and (c) to ultimately uplift the standard of living of the rakyat,” he said.