‘Half of RM1bil total surpluses went to affordable housing’

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GEORGE TOWN: Penang, which has annually boasted of a record budget surplus since the opposition took over the state in 2008, says its accumulated surpluses would have reached more than RM1 billion if half of that had not been spent on building public and affordable housing.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said if RM500 million of the RM658 million worth of land sales since 2008 had not gone into the state’s public and affordable housing fund, the accumulated surpluses would have reached RM1.07 billion.

He said it was also clear Penang’s record annual budget surpluses, which had added up to RM574 million over eight years, had not been due to the sale of land, which had mainly gone into the public and affordable housing fund.

He said this put paid to the administration’s political opponents’ claim that Penang’s surpluses were due to land sales.

“The state government has received a total revenue of RM4.9 billion since 2008. Land sales revenue since that year amount to RM658 million, or 13%, of the total state revenue.

“From the RM658 million, the state allocated RM500 million to the public and affordable housing fund to build low-cost, low-medium cost housing priced below RM300,000.

“In other words, since 2008, only RM158 million contributed to the accumulated surpluses of RM574 million,” he said in a statement today.

The surpluses were also spent on state welfare initiatives, Lim said, citing the RM400 million for 1.6 million Penangites and schools; as well as public infrastructure projects.

He said the administration’s CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) motto was the reason Penang could record surpluses while reducing state debts.

Taking a swipe at the federal government, Lim said that with Penang’s annual surpluses, the state could lend Putrajaya the RM50 million it promised but had yet to disburse to Chinese primary schools last year.

“Is the federal government so poor that for the second year running, it cannot even find the RM50 million development funds promised to Chinese primary schools last year?

“Something is very wrong and shameful if the federal government cannot even find RM50 million, or 0.02%, of the entire RM261 billion 2017 Budget,” he said.

It was reported that due to budget cuts, the education ministry could not give the schools the funds promised last year, and was presently working on an alternative solution.