Sabah will be worse off if federal government’s allocation reduced, says State BN secretary

KOTA KINABALU: Will the increase in Sabah’s oil royalty mean reduced federal allocation for development in the state?

And can the opposition, including Pakatan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, should they form the next government, guarantee that federal allocation to Sabah will not be reduced in lieu of the increased revenue derived from the new oil royalty?

These were the questions raised by Sabah Barisan Nasional secretary Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan who is worried that Sabah will be ‘worse off’ than before should the federal government’s allocation under the Malaysia Plans be reduced.

It is very likely that Sabah may be getting higher oil royalty but in the end will get lower overall funds from Federal Government under his (Anwar’s) prime ministership, Abdul Rahman opinied.

Speaking to reporters here yesterday, the Kota Belud member of parliament said Anwar had been quoted repeatedly saying that (if Pakatan Rakyat forms the government) he would increase Sabah’s oil royalty from five per cent to 20 per cent.

Other opposition leaders like Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan went even further by promising 50 per cent, Abdul Rahman said adding, “As an MP for Sabah, I do not have any reason to reject such wonderful proposal. More money for Sabah is obviously good for us.

“But I am also painfully aware that Anwar has not been fully forthcoming in his proposal. In Parliament I posed a question that if Anwar increased Sabah’s royalty to 20 per cent, could he guarantee that he would not reduce Sabah’s allocation in his federal budget or in the Eleventh Malaysia Plan?

“I reminded the opposition that Sabah had been consistently given biggest allocations by the federal government both in the Malaysia Plans and the federal government’s annual budget. For example Sabah received RM20.3 billion out of RM230 billion and in First Rolling Plan of the 10th Malaysia Plan, Sabah received RM10.7 billion out of RM98.5 billion.

“My concern is, while Datuk Seri Anwar may increase Sabah’s share of the royalty, he will have to reduce Sabah allocation in the 11th Malaysia Plan. We may end up worse off! That is why I asked for a guarantee. None of the opposition MPs at that time stood up to reply to argument,” he said.

According to Abdul Rahman, increases in royalty for Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan would amount to more than RM10 billion a year.

Anwar knows very well that the RM10 billion given to the three oil producing states mean RM10 billion taken away from the budget of the other states in Peninsular Malaysia, he pointed out before saying, “I do not think Datuk Seri Anwar dare to say to the people from the non-oil producing states, ‘I am sorry, I have to cut your allocation because I need to give RM10 billion to Terengganu, Kelantan, Sarawak and Sabah!.

He (Anwar) cannot afford to say that because the people in these affected states will reject him and this is unacceptable to him since he needs their votes desperately to win Putrajaya, Abdul Rahman stressed.

“I want to know which state(s) is willing to have their budget reduced because the RM10 billion has to come from somewhere… money does not fall from the sky. Show us which sector he plans to reduce the budget to make up for the increase in oil royalty… which state will sacrifice its allocation?

“Anwar as a leader must answer this. How is he going to juggle the budget and he must inform the rakyat, Sabahans in particular on how this will be done because it is very likely that Sabah may be getting higher oil royalty but in the end will get lower overall funds from Federal Government under his prime ministership.

“For every ringgit given to Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu and Kelantan, that one ringgit must come from somebody. This can only mean that some states must be willing to sacrifice their portion of the federal budget.

“Some projects in Peninsular Malaysia must be cancelled. Question is who and what needs to be sacrificed? Or will Datuk Seri Anwar spend less on security, health, education, infrastructure, public utilities, social etc given the fact he has to spend more on royalty?” he stressed.

Anwar must answer these tough questions so that people understand and are convinced, he said adding, “and mind you, Sabahans still remember how Anwar as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister consistently refused PBS’ request for higher royalty.

According to Abdul Rahman, he will again raise these questions in the next parliamentary sitting which is scheduled to commence on March 12.

He also pointed out that Pakatan Rakyat said they would eradicate corruption and renegotiate lopsided deals which would give the federal government billions in extra funds for the increase in royalty.

As someone who sits in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Committee (MACC) committee, Abdul Rahman said he hoped they would succeed.

“Any effort to abolish corruption must be supported and encouraged. I am sure Sabahans share the same view as mine. My concern is not about the effort to check corruption. It is more about Anwar’s rationale of including ‘savings from corruption eradication efforts and renegotiating lopsided deals’ as part of his government’s revenue.

“Can Anwar estimate how much yearly savings he gets from anti-corruption effort? Can he comfortably project such revenue with a high level of accuracy and use the figure to plan his budget?

“Can Anwar force those IPPs (independent power producers) and highway toll concessionaires to renegotiate the agreements immediately after he swears in as Prime Minister? Or will he face prolonged and protracted battle with the concessionaires?

“If yes, will his budget revenue projections fall short and hence disturb his spending plans?,” he said and pointed out that no government in this world is using projected savings from corruption as the basis of preparing its budget.

“That is utterly irresponsible. The budget will be in a mess. Any savings in anti-corruption drive is a bonus, not to be included in the budgeting. When Anwar says he will finance the royalty increase from corruption eradication savings, one has to be worried.

“My take is he will eventually have to cut allocations to the other states and those states deserve to know the facts. Anwar must give assurance and guarantee that he will not reduce federal allocation for Sabah if the oil royalty is increased.

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