KOTA KINABALU: The chief minister has been accused of making a “grossly misleading” claim about aquaculture contributing RM2.8 billion to state revenue. SAPP president Yong Teck Lee said the state budget had estimated that only RM10 million would be collected from a new sales tax on fisheries exports.
Yong said the claim of RM2.8 billion by chief minister Shafie Apdal was ”grossly misleading” because the total Sabah government revenue was only RM4.2 billion.
He said protests by the fisheries industry had forced the stated government to suspend the tax.
“The Sabah government must stop churning out confusing statements that can only confuse the business community and investors,” said Yong.
Shafie had said on Wednesday that Sabah was focused on developing its fisheries sector, including implementing an aquaculture industry in order to increase revenue.
On a visit to his Semporna constituency, Shafie was quoted by Bernama as saying that the sector currently contributed RM2.8 billion per year but that there was room for growth.
Yong said another serious question concerning the state budget was the repayment of a RM1 billion bond.
He said Shafie, in recent occasions, had repeated his claim in his budget speech on Nov 15 last year that the Sabah government had repaid the RM1 billion bond through one bullet payment in 2019.
“But the entire 2020 budget did not show from where the government got RM1 billion to pay off any loan. “The state budget was less than RM4.2 billion. The only plausible source of funds to repay the RM1 billion bond is the RM4 billion in the state reserves that was carried forward from the 2018 budget left behind by the previous government.
“If this is the case, then the (state) finance ministry must disclose this fact. If not, then there is something fishy about the RM1 billion repayment,” he said.
Commenting on the economy, he said: “More than 300 shops in downtown Kota Kinabalu alone have closed down, excluding the closures in shopping complexes and the suburbs like Inanam, Lintas, Penampang and so on.
“Even before the emergence of Covid-19 earlier this year, the Sabah economy has been on a downward spiral.
“From a high of 8.2% GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2017, the Sabah economy fell to a mere 1.5% in 2018 and became stagnant at 0.5% in 2019. This year, the Sabah economy is expected to shrink by 15% to 20%.”
Yong said the impact on state revenue would be severe because of the consequential drop in land revenue and sales tax.