Saturday, August 20

Chong backs Soon Koh, calls for tabling of supplementary budget for Sarawak


Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING: Backing Parti Sarawak Bersatu president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh’s call for the review of the 2020 State Budget, Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen has proposed that a supplementary budget be tabled at the coming State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting.

The Kota Sentosa assemblyman also said that the sitting on May 11 should be extended from just one day to five days to allow DUN members to debate the supplementary budget.

“…it is vital that the State Government must give a clear direction in the coming 11th May DUN sitting, table a proper supplementary budget and allow for full debate on the supplementary budget by both sides of the House,” he said in a statement.

Chong, who is also Stampin MP, said Wong’s call had vindicated him as he had voiced his disapproval of the budget when it was tabled in DUN last year.

He said he had questioned how the state government had planned to fund the budget when its estimated revenue then fell short of its total expenditure of some RM22.644 billion just on four strategic initiatives that include infrastructure development and provision of utilities.

Chong added that he had warned the government against including revenue from oil and gas, and using the Development Bank of Sarawak to fund the budget.

“In the past, when I warned against the over-spending and over-committing Sarawak’s fund into unnecessary projects, the GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) leaders simply brushed aside my comments as ‘Opposition propaganda’ and ‘ignorance of Opposition about the financial strength of Sarawak Government’ and assured Sarawakians that the State Government has enough money to deliver.

“Now, the similar comment and warning against over-spending and over-committing State funds is coming from a person who has held the Finance Minister II post for many years and who knows all the ins and outs of the State Government’s financial standing.

“Are the GPS ADUNs and ministers going to just simply brush aside his comments as well?,” he said, referring to Wong’s statement in The Borneo Post today.

He said he also supported Wong’s call to re-examine and even to cancel non-essential and non-critical multi-billion projects announced by the state government.

Chong said the government must seriously review the budget, especially since its revenue is now half or even less than half of the estimated revenue at the time of tabling of the budget.

He added that it was also time for the government to utilise the state reserves for economic revitalisation programmes and sustaining the small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“So far, the State Government has not done enough for the State’s SMEs. It must always remember that it is the SMEs that forms the backbone of Sarawak’s economy, not the mega multi-billion projects announced by Abang Johari,” he said, referring to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Wong had said in the statement that a review of the state budget was now necessary, especially due to the loss of revenue from the oil and gas industry which has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said a real solution was needed for the overblown budget deficit and it was imperative that the government re-examines all projects it has announced and shelve or cancel those which are non-critical.

He added that any expenditure must be focused on resuscitating the State’s economy and helping our businesses recover, particularly SMEs and the industries which are fundamental to our State’s economy like oil palm, timber, agriculture, shipbuilding and fishery.

“If the government proceeds to continue carrying out all the commitments as announced by the Chief Minister, Sarawak may face financial distress and this will impact us and our future generations,” he warned.