GEORGE TOWN, April 24 ― Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng insisted today that the state’s permanent forest reserves have not been cleared between 2006 and 2015, contrary to allegations.
He was responding to recent claims from political foes in the Barisan Nasional (BN) that Penang’s hills had become bald or “botak” under his Pakatan Harapan administration.
“Illegal clearing of private land without permit from the local authorities have been taken action and stopped,” he said in a statement.
He then claimed that it would be the BN that might reduce Penang’s forest reserves if it won back the state.
He noted that Pahang had cut down the largest permanent forest reserves in Malaysia at 161,379 hectares, followed by PAS-led Kelantan 157,919 hectares and Perak 74,032 hectares.
“Figures from the National Forestry Department shows that even the smallest state in Malaysia, Perlis cut down 167 hectares of forest reserves,” he said.
“Clearly making our hills and forests ‘botak’ is BN and BN’s new ally, PAS in Kelantan,” he claimed.
He also claimed that Penang may not enjoy strong financial performance and annual budget surpluses if BN ruled the state again.
“If BN were to take power, it is not only our hills and forests that will be made ‘botak’. Our finances may also be ‘botak’,” he said.
Penang recorded accumulated budget surpluses of RM574 million from 2008 to 2015, which is more than the RM373 million of budget surpluses recorded over 50 years under BN’s rule from 1957 to 2007, Lim stated.
He said these surpluses enabled the Pakatan government to give out more than RM412 million in cash contribution directly to 1.6 million Penangites to senior citizens, disabled and single mothers (RM100), newly-born babies (RM200), university students (RM1,000), trishaw pullers (RM1,200) taxi-drivers and school-bus drivers (RM600).
“The hard-core poor households are assured a universal basic income of RM790 every month, this year all property owners are given a six percent discount of our assessment rates whilst full exemption is given to low-cost, low-medium cost and kampung houses,” he said.
He said if BN takes back Penang, it will mean all these monetary contributions will “dry up.”
“Our yearly institutional allocation to vernacular and religious schools will also end,” he warned.
He said he has faith in the people and that they will choose a people-centric government that is proven to be clean and competent.