Reveal all state GLCs, not just some, economist tells Penang government

Universiti Malaya professor Edmund Terence Gomez.

PETALING JAYA: A prominent economist has urged Penang to name all state government-linked companies (GLCs) said to have been the pulse of its development, economy, tourism and investment for the past 10 years.

Edmund Terence Gomez, a professor at Universiti Malaya, was referring to comments by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow yesterday that state GLCs had brought Penang to its current level of success.

Chow had said in the state assembly that there were currently 11 state GLCs with a total allocation of RM87.2 million from 2016 to Sept 30 this year.

Gomez told FMT this could be a first in Malaysian history but called for the accounts of all other state GLCs to be disclosed as well, given that they are public institutions.

He said there was no need for secrecy over the names and salaries or remunerations received by the directors of these outfits.

“Can the government provide a list of all GLCs, not just 11 of them? Can we know how they were run over the past 10 years so that we know how they contributed to Penang’s current success?”

He also questioned the justification for funding these other GLCs.

“If they are GLCs, should they not be raising their own funds? How many of the directors were politicians? How much of this funding constituted salaries for directors?

“Shouldn’t this be part of the state government’s competency, accountability and transparency (CAT) system of good governance?”

Chow, who is DAP’s Padang Kota assemblyman, said yesterday that Penang would consider restructuring state GLCs to prevent any overlap with the functions of federal agencies and to reduce the number of such companies.

He also said a proposal for state GLCs to table their budgets and finances would be taken into consideration although this was not required of them as they are not statutory bodies.

“Perhaps we will table their budgets as a form of notification to the state assembly in the future, for the sake of transparency,” he said.

Gomez, a senior fellow with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, said this was a step in the right direction, adding however that the chief minister had to disclose the rest of the state GLCs as well.

“He cannot choose to disclose only a few state GLCs as he is doing now.”

However, he commended Chow for the move, saying he was likely the first chief minister in the last decade to say there will be more transparency of his state’s GLCs.

“Other chief ministers and menteris besar must do the same.”

Chow had also said that the Penang government’s investments in its state GLCs were being closely monitored, while best corporate practices were in place for the running and staffing of these institutions.

Gomez previously questioned the commitment of both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan to reviewing GLCs, as well as what he labelled as political appointments in such outfits.

In April, meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad called GLCs “monsters” that had deviated from their original purpose. He has since said that GLC directors or chief executives will not receive high salaries under his administration.

The 11 state GLCs announced by Chow and their respective allocations by the Penang government from 2016 to September this year are as follows:

1. Penang Global Tourism Sdn Bhd (RM23.08 million).

2. George Town World Heritage Incorporated (RM13.74 million). The George Town Festival received an additional RM13 million.

3. Penang Institute (RM12.82 million).

4. Penang Green Council (RM4.5 million). An extra RM2.19 million went to the Green Oasis Environmental Learning Centre.

5. Lembaga Wakaf Hindu (RM3.84 million).

6. Penang International Convention and Exhibition Bureau (RM3.6 million).

7. Penang Youth Development Corporation (RM3.46 million).

8. Penang Women Development Corporation (RM3 million)

9. Yayasan Islam Pulau Pinang (RM2.4 million).

10. PHH Development Sdn Bhd, Halal Hub (RM1.5 million).

11. Institut Integriti Negeri (RM54.3 thousand).