GEORGE TOWN: The state budget for next year, at RM1.208bil, is a lot “leaner” than previous years.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, tabling his first budget for Penang, shaved it down from this year’s RM1.337bil and RM1.45bil last year.
The biggest cut was the development budget, down by 55.27% to RM306.4mil from this year’s RM685mil.
“We will stop giving loan facilities to state government agencies. This year, we prepared RM350mil in loan facilities for them.
“This drastic step takes into account our current financial situation,” he explained when tabling the state’s management and development budget at the state assembly yesterday.
With a projected revenue of RM505.5mil, Penang again gets a deficit budget of RM395.69mil. But this is far less than this year’s projected deficit of RM748.5mil.
“The deficit will be funded by the state’s consolidated savings as in 2017, we projected a deficit of RM667.11mil but recorded a surplus of RM51.16mil instead and topped up our reserves to RM1.09bil,” Chow said.
Despite the tight budget, he still announced a string of goodies for Penangites that reflected his Penang 2030 action plan of inclusiveness and equal rights.
The island will get its first night shelter for the homeless, to be built in a pre-war house in Jalan C.Y. Choy, and the state is allocating RM560,000 to run a skills training programme for the able-bodied homeless and provide long-term shelter for those who are unable to work.
“The shelter will be a transit centre for the homeless with food, clothing and a comfortable place to stay,” he said, adding that the state, private sector and NGOs would join hands to operate the night shelter.
To boost the economy, the tourism industry is getting the lion’s share of allocation with a budget of RM34mil to run promotions and events.
“International standard programmes draw tourists. Our Hot Air Balloon Festival drew some 180,000 visitors and the Penang International Food Festival series has drawn 708,000.
“To attract teenagers, we will also turn Penang into an e-sports hub by holding the Penang eSports Festival next year,” Chow added.
The Penang Digital Library is getting RM10.8mil for expansion and RM4.6mil has been set aside to build the Butterworth Digital Library by next October.
The state is also getting a RM30mil sports complex with 12 badminton courts near Jalan Sungai Pinang and a futsal court in each of the five districts for RM1.5mil.
Both local councils are getting a total of RM4.65mil to build public sports, recreation and park facilities in their respective jurisdictions.
Chow also announced the creation of the RM9mil Nibong Tebal Arena in Jalan Bukit Panchor, which will have nine badminton courts. Construction is expected to begin in March.
The state will maintain the discount on assessments at 50% for low- and low-medium cost homeowners and 3% for all other property categories.
The state is budgeting RM56.8mil for Islamic development, which includes infrastructural development of mosques, surau and Islamic schools.
As the final cherry of the budget goodies, Chow announced a half-month bonus for each of the state’s 3,915 civil servants with a minimum payout of RM1,000. This amounts to RM5.23mil.
Teachers in Islamic schools and Chinese private high schools will get between RM200 and RM300 each.
The debate on the Supply Bill will resume on Monday.