LAWAS: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said he sought a different approach from his predecessor the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem in seeking funds to develop the state through ‘revenue engineering’ to steer the state towards greater financial independence from Putrajaya.
He said this was necessary for greater autonomy in state planning and alternative funding, which had resulted in the state moving forward with Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS), regional development corridors and a slew of other strategic development projects.
“We can stand on our own feet but under the Federal Constitution, the federal government must allocate funds to Sarawak as they are collecting corporate, individual, port and other forms of taxes from us,” he said at the community dinner in Lawas last night in conjunction with his two-day working visit to the northern Sarawak.
The Chief Minister will also be chairing a coordination meeting here today on state-wide development projects to ensure the smooth implementation.
According to Abang Johari, the sound financial position of the state and the new approach introduced had enabled the state government to fund the many infrastructure projects in the state and even conditionally offered RM1 billion advance federal loan repayment to repair the 400 dilapidated schools in Sarawak.
He related of getting the inspiration to impose petroleum sales tax while examining the State Constitution after performing prayers before the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) convention last year, when he noticed that the sales taxation provision which was never enforced in the state.
Abang Johari said he was happy when informed by State Attorney-General Datuk Talat Mahmood on the interpretation of the provision, which means that sales tax on natural resources of petroleum products exported was legally within the state rights.
He subsequently announced at the party convention that Sarawak is entitled to implement taxation such as exported petroleum products.
“KL (Putrajaya) was caught by surprise as I did not seek its consent – the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) Report on such taxes affects the state and we don’t have to seek federal approval, unlike other forms of taxes as required under the constitution,” he said.
The chief minister said with the additional RM3 billion of revenue from the petroleum sales tax, it enabled the state government to fund construction of game-changing bridges, roads, welfare programmes and other projects to benefit the people and state.
He said from Pulau Bruit to Limbang and Lawas in the north, infrastructure such as bridges, roads, waterfronts and other developments will see transformation of the respective places in coming years.
Abang Johari said he saw huge potential in Limbang and Lawas development which would be boosted by Northern Regional Development Agency led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
He added that the ongoing projects which included the iconic waterfronts in Limbang and Lawas, proposed oil and gas refinery project point to a bright future for the two divisions if the people remained united and solidly behind the Sarawak-oriented GPS state government.
He also said that it would be a busy time for people in the next five to 10 years across the state with the implementation of a slew of major infrastructure and other projects that will boost the state’s transformation.
Also, present at the dinner were Awang Tengah, Acting State Secretary Datu Jaul Samion, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah, assistant ministers, heads of government departments, elected representatives and a crowd of about 2,000.