USM gets more money from Putrajaya than Penang does, says backbencher

Gooi Hsiao Leung (second from right) speaks to reporters outside the state assembly chambers today.

GEORGE TOWN: A Penang backbencher today urged Putrajaya to increase the amount of funding for the state, saying a local public university there receives more than what is given to the state as a whole.

Gooi Hsiao Leung (PKR-Bukit Tengah) said Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) received RM525 million in allocations last year, more than the RM195.1 million given to the state government in annual federal grants between 2017 and June 2018.

“Even if you add up one and a half years of allocations, the amount is still less than what USM gets. Is this fair to the hardworking Penangites who are one of the largest body of taxpayers in the country?

“Without a doubt, Penang is one of the largest contributors in terms of taxes and GDP to our country.

“I am of the opinion that the federal government should increase funding and annual grants to Penang,” he said in his debate at the state assembly today.

In terms of annual federal grants, he said, Kedah received RM373.3 million while Perak received RM657.1 million and Perlis, RM126 million.

Gooi said of the RM6.78 billion in grants given in 2016, Penang received only 3.18% compared to the 13 other states.

He also urged Penang to start its own civil service system instead of using the federal system as is currently the practice.

He said the majority of Penang’s civil service are essentially federal employees from the Public Service Department, unlike unfederated Malay states like Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu which have their own civil services.

With a federal civil service in Penang, he said, many homegrown talents are poached by other states, causing a brain drain.

He added that federal civil servants occupy key posts in government departments and might not have the best interest of Penangites at heart.

“We saw a big dispute when the federal government appointed a state secretary in 2010 without the consultation or agreement of the Penang government at the time.

“I have also heard that Penang is a good training ground. Once they learn everything, they are transferred to other states, causing us to lose people who are in touch with the state’s issues and, ultimately, talent,” he said.

In order for this to work, he said, an independent de-centralisation committee should be set up to look into the matter.

He said the committee could also look into issues such as the more efficient channelling of federal funds.

Gooi acknowledged that this might take some time as the devolution of powers require an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

“That is why an independent committee is required. This might take some time, but we can start now.

“We have all the best minds at our disposal in Penang and I’m certain this can be made possible.”