State’s reserves are RM1.82bil and not RM888mil, clarifies CM

PENANG’S accumulated financial reserves as of last year stand at RM1.82bil and not RM888mil, clarified Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

Chow said the RM888mil amount only took into account the Consolidated Revenue Account without the Consolidated Trust Account, which contains RM933.68mil as of last year.

He had to clarify Penang’s financial state yesterday during his winding-up speech on the state’s budget for next year following a question from Lim Guan Eng (PH-Air Putih) on exactly how much is currently in the state’s coffers.

“I would like to clarify that there has been a slight confusion regarding the statement in that the comparison was not done on an ‘apple-to-apple’ basis.

“I stress that the state’s reserves only decreased from RM2.1bil in 2019 to RM1.82bil in 2020 as the state grappled to deal with the effects of Covid-19.

“This meant that the balance under the Consolidated Funds in 2020 has only been reduced by RM149.42mil compared with the balance in 2018,” said Chow.

He told the Hall that the Consolidated Trust Account is made up of accounts set up for specific purposes and the funds therein can only be used for those purposes.

Lim had earlier told the Hall that in 2008, the new state government took over from Barisan Nasional with RM849mil in the coffers, and this was raised to RM2.1bil by 2018, while the amount had fallen to RM888mil now.

But Chow clarified that the state in fact had RM847.45mil in 2008, RM1.97bil in 2018, and RM2.1bil in 2019.

He explained that the winning streak could not be continued in 2020 as the state grappled to deal with Covid-19.

“Just like the Federal Government and other states, Penang struggled with great challenges last year,” he said.

He added that the state’s expenditure last year was significantly higher to provide various assistance packages to those affected by the pandemic.

For next year’s budget, Chow said the state government ‘does not deny that next year’s deficit of RM449.8mil is huge’, but stressed that it would be unavoidable, given the need to rejuvenate the state economy and help those hit badly by the pandemic.

The last day of the state assembly sitting also saw a heated exchange of words on the difficulty that assemblymen faced when they tried to help schools.

That led to Chow suggesting the formation of a bipartisan committee to look into the matter.

He asked state education committee chairman Dr P. Ramasamy, who is Deputy Chief Minister II, to discuss the matter with the state Education Department.

“This should be done in the presence of the Opposition Leader and interested members,” he said.

The proposal came after several government backbenchers voiced their grouses on not being allowed to provide aid to schools.

Then Opposition Leader Datuk Muhamad Yusoff Mohd Noor (BN – Sungai Dua) stood up to say that during Pakatan Harapan’s time in the Federal Government, this was not allowed on the part of Barisan assemblymen either.

This caused several backbenchers, particularly M. Satees (PH – Bagan Dalam) and Chris Lee Chun Kit (PH – Pulau Tikus), to start hollering at Muhamad Yusoff.

Deputy Speaker Datuk Dr Amar Pritpal Abdullah reined them in and Chow then called for the bipartisan committee to be formed.

The meeting adjourned sine die.

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