Sunday, September 20

Sarawak can settle loans if PH keeps promise of 20 per cent oil royalty, says former minister on repair of dilapidated schools

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KUCHING: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has been blasted by a former federal minister today over his insistence that Sarawak pays back its loans to Putrajaya before it releases RM350 million to repair dilapidated schools in the state.

Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who is a former minister in the prime minister’s department, said that Pakatan Harapan should keep its election promise of giving 20% oil royalties to Sarawak and Sabah before asking Sarawak to repay its loans.

“It is arrogant of Lim Guan Eng to ask Sarawak to settle its loans before he gives the allocation to repair dilapidated schools in Sarawak. Lim Guan Eng always makes ridiculous statements like this. Previously, Lim Guan Eng said Sarawak is bankrupt,” he said on his official Facebook page.

He said in the first year since Lim became the Finance Minister, Petronas had contributed RM82 billion to the country’s coffers and he was certain that most of that came from Petronas’ profits from Sarawak.

“After the DAP national retreat programme before the 14th General Election (GE14), he announced after the retreat that if PH won GE14, they would be fair to Sabah and Sarawak which they claimed had been marginalised (dianaktirikan) by Barisan Nasional (BN).

“Guan Eng even publicly said he agreed to Sabah and Sarawak getting the 20% oil royalties,” he said.

The Umno supreme council member also said that according to a report by The Edge Markets on July 26 last year, the 5 per cent oil royalty for Sarawak was worth RM1.58 billion, which means the additional 15 per cent promised would amount to RM4.74 billion.

The former Kota Belud MP pointed out that in the case of Sabah, their 5 per cent oil royalty amounted to RM1.32 billion and therefore, an additional 15 per cent would amount to RM3.96 billion.

“Therefore there’s no need for Guan Eng to ask Sarawak to clear its debts first; the same goes with Sabah. As Finance Minister, (he should) keep his promise first to pay the additional 15 per cent or RM4.74 billion to Sarawak,” he said.

Lim had said on Monday that the federal government was ready to disburse RM350 million to the Sarawak government to repair dilapidated schools in the state, but only after the latter pays back the same amount first.

He said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had expressed his willingness to pay back RM350 million to Putrajaya in the near future, which is the first phase of the RM1-billion loan repayment.

“(With the RM350 million repayment) a number of issues can be finalised, such as the implementation schedule, list of schools and the tender process for the project.

“With the spirit of cooperation and sincerity of all parties, the Ministry of Finance is confident that the first phase of the school repair project in Sarawak will be implemented before the end of 2019,” he said.

He also reminded that the Sarawak government still owed Putrajaya RM2.352 billion as of June 30 this year, adding that the repayment of the RM1 billion would mean the debt to the federal government would stand at RM1.352 billion.

The federal government agreed in principle to accept the RM1 billion loan payment by the Sarawak government for the repair of dilapidated schools in the state, subject to four legal mechanisms which were agreed to by both sides.

The legal mechanisms are that the Sarawak government must repay RM1 billion of its total debt into the federal government’s Consolidated Fund; the federal government will channel the same amount as repaid by the Sarawak government as an allocation for the use of the repair school in Sarawak; remedial works for schools in Sarawak should be offered through open tender; and the federal government will take into consideration the priority of the Sarawak government in determining the schools to be refurbished.