‘Stop treating Penang like a stepchild’

Gathering of minds: (From left) Kebun Bunga rep Jason Ong, Batu Uban rep A. Kumaresan, Gooi, Machang Bubok rep Lee Khai Loon and Penanti rep Dr Hajah Norlela Ariffin at Dewan Sri Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: It is time for Penang to push for the decentralisation of federal power and “stop being treated like a stepchild or Cin­derella”, says a state assemblyman.

Gooi Hsiao Leung (PH-Bukit Tengah) suggested that the state form an independent commission to recommend matters under federal authority that could be returned to the state.

He said the 24th promise in the Pakatan Harapan election manifesto was to decentralise federal power and return certain jurisdictions to the states such as on matters of public transportation, welfare, social services, agriculture and environmental protection.

In his speech while debating the motion of thanks to the Tuan Yang Terutama’s opening address yesterday, he urged the state to hold discussions with the Federal Govern­ment to fulfil that promise.

He added that to finance such responsibilities, Pakatan had promised in its manifesto to hand over at least 10% of the income tax collected from within states to the respective state governments.

“We received RM195.1mil from the Federal Government in 2017 and from January to June last year, we received RM127.4mil.

“Add the one-and-a-half years of federal funding together and it is still less than Universiti Sains Mal­ay­sia’s 2018 budget of RM525mil,” Gooi pointed out.

In the 2016 federal allocations to all states totalling RM6.788bil, Gooi, who is from PKR, reminded the assembly that Penang only received 3.18% or RM216mil of it.

“There are many things we want to do for Penang, but we cannot do them or are delayed because the power sharing between us and the Federal Government is not balanced,” he said.

Gooi also pointed out that unlike Johor, Kedah, Kelantan and Tereng­ganu, which were collectively the Unfederated Malay States before independence, Penang did not have its own civil service and relied on staffing arrangements from the Public Services Department.

He said many of Penang’s senior civil servants such as the state secretary, finance officer, legal adviser to Economic Planning Unit director were from the federal civil service and seconded to Penang.

“After they are well-trained and had gained experience, they are transferred to other states. We then lose good civil servants who have a deep understanding of our state issues,” he said.

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