Ask and we will help, Guan Eng tells Kelantan

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says Penang received the barest minimum of assistance from the Barisan Nasional government.

GEORGE TOWN: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng says the federal government will continue to help all states equally, especially Kelantan, which is in “dire financial straits”.

He said Putrajaya would continue to help Kelantan by giving funds to help pay salaries for their civil servants.

Last week, Lim revealed that Kelantan was receiving the highest monetary aid from the federal government – totalling RM913 million – to deal with its cash deficit and expenditure.

He said his recent statement on Kelantan’s financial status was meant as an advice for the state to be financially prudent.

“I want to say here the federal government will continue to help the Kelantan government if they need money to pay their civil servants.

“Can Kelantan deny they are having trouble paying their civil servants? We are willing to help Kelantan again with their finances, just make the request and we will help you,” he said in a press conference here today.

Lim was responding to remarks by former prime minister Najib Razak who took the finance minister to task for telling Kelantan not to rely on federal funds and to tighten its purse strings since the federal government was dealing with mounting national debts.

Najib had said he was “not happy” with Lim’s statement, saying Putrajaya should help any state in trouble regardless of their political leanings.

Najib also said when Lim was chief minister, Penang also received federal funds although it was under the opposition and was relatively more economically advanced than Kelantan.

To this, Lim said Penang had indeed received federal funds, but just the bare minimum such as federal constitution-mandated per capita funding and road maintenance grants.

“During my 10 years (as chief minister), I often wondered where was the money Najib had given to Penang. Because we never received funding from the federal government as far as Penang is concerned, except for federal-mandated grants.”

The Kelantan government said Lim had “bad intentions” by revealing that the state received the largest amount of funds from the federal government.

Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said Kelantan always saved its money and it was unfair to say otherwise. He said all states relied on federal funding and his state was not the only one.

“No state can stand on their own,” the NST reported him as saying.

Amar said Kelantan had repaid its debts well. He said if the federal government wanted Kelantan to stop asking for money, the oil royalties to the state should be restored.