WHEN Budget 2018 was announced on Friday Oct 28, it received good feedback from those who will benefit from it but it did not manage to escape cynical criticisms from the Opposition, especially the DAP-led Penang state government.
Many state representatives of the Pakatan Harapan Penang state government, especially from DAP, took to social media to question the handouts announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, with many calling it a populist budget and a General Election Budget.
The Penang state Budget 2018 was announced last week by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on the opening day of the State Assembly sitting.
At first glance, one would think it is the Federal Budget since the similarities between both are remarkably uncanny in many areas. On closer look, the Penang version can be said to be even more of a populist budget and a greater General Election Budget with higher amounts given.
It reminds me of Hari Raya or the Chinese New Year (as I celebrate both) as a child. Every time we tore open an ang pow from our uncles and aunts, we would see which one gave more, so the one giving more must be richer and nicer!
A former DAP supporter even described the Budget to be an improvised version of copied homework!
Penang civil servants are so lucky they are getting RM500 extra compared to civil servants serving the federal government who will be getting RM1,500 as bonus.
When cash incentive for farmers, rubber-tappers and fishermen was announced through the Federal Budget, it was said to be a trick to retain rural voter bank but then the Penang Budget also came up with a one-off exemption of stall operators’ license and quit rent for low-cost, low medium-cost and kampung houses. Sounds familiar?
Political observer Azizi Safar noted that when Najib announced the RM500 million allocation for the upgrade of Penang Hospital and also the Operation Theater of the Balik Pulau Hospital, the Penang Chief Minister did not seem to react or at least express gratitude.
Perhaps Lim’s mind was preoccupied with ways to come up with better offerings?
Well, Penangites have a lot to be grateful for then as Lim has also devised a way they can benefit from medically through the RM300 credited I-Love-Penang card to be used at private clinics and RM130 (increase of RM30) for senior citizens and the disabled (OKU).
The move was lauded by Azizi as it is said to have been done to assist businesses of private medical practitioners and private hospitals.
And then there is the issue of priorities.
Why is the Penang Budget allocating more funds for sports than it is for flood mitigation projects which is more pertinent, an issue that needs to be addressed in Penang with the endless onslaught of floods each time it rains?
The 2018 Penang Budget shows that a total of RM275 million will be spent to build badminton and swimming facilities.
Great news for sports enthusiasts in the state and it really is a good way to encourage Penangites to be more sporty and healthy but wait, what about those who have to endure the floods each time it rains?
Well, the Penang state government is thoughtful enough to allocate RM20 million for flood mitigation projects.
Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong also questioned the move, asking why the amount to be spent on flood mitigation works is eight per cent of the amount to be spent on badminton and swimming in Penang.
A friend joked that Penang will have its own natural swimming pools after heavy rains that there is no need to spend so much money to build swimming facilities!
Jokes aside though, Sunday’s flood catastrophe has proven that more needs to be done for flood mitigation efforts. The 15-hour continuous rain since Saturday caused flooding across the state, killing at least seven people so far and prompting the chief minister to ask for help from the federal government. The Federal Government promptly sent help.
The number of flood victims in five districts in Penang have risen to 5,845 this morning. They are currently sheltered at 62 evacuation centres.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Meteorological Department has forecast heavy rainfall over the state in the next seven days. It issued a yellow alert for Penang as well as Kedah, Perlis and Perak, especially in Kerian, Selama, Hulu Perak and Kuala Kangsar.
Whatever it is, Penangites should still be thankful that they will be benefiting from the 2018 Penang Budget.
It is a good thing that Penang is ruled by the Opposition which always strives to be better than the Federal Government, from which it takes a page from!
Will the Penang budget be able retain DAP’S popularity in Penang and to capture the hearts of Penang lang and Penang Kia? Well, we shall see in the coming election.