KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Sarawak should settle its RM2.5 billion debt with Putrajaya before accusing it of marginalising the Borneo state by refusing its RM2.7 million share in tourism tax revenue, Lim Guan Eng asserted today.
The finance minister chided Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for alleging unfair financial treatment when the hornbill state has RM50 million in arrears that has yet to be settled.
“It is best that the Sarawak State Government not make defamatory remarks on the distribution of RM2.7 million in tourism tax when as at 30 November 2018, the Sarawak State Government still owes over RM2.5 billion to the Federal Government with nearly RM50 million in arrears.
“Seeing as the Sarawak State has a huge reserve, why isn’t it settling its debt to the Federal Government?” Lim said in a statement.
The federal minister also clarified that Putrajaya has yet to hand out the promised 50 per cent share of tourism tax revenue collected to any state government, contrary to allegations.
“Accounting for the tourism tax revenue for the year 2018 will be finalised shortly and on the good will of the Federal Government, 50 per cent of the tourism tax revenue will be distributed to all State Governments within the first quarter of 2019,” he said.
Abdul Karim was reported as saying yesterday that Sarawak was owed RM439,731 from September 1 to December 31, 2017 and another RM2.32 million from January 1 to September last year.
He had also claimed monies from the tax revenue had already been disbursed to neighbouring Sabah.
“Datuk Abdul Karim claims are not true.
“A responsible and professional minister of Sarawak should not resort to slander as an outlet to condemn the federal government,” Lim said.
He also emphasised that the tourism tax was a federal government initiative and that it has the prerogative on whether the revenue should be shared with state governments.
“From a legal perspective, the tourism tax is the revenue of the federal government and does not belong to any particular state,” he said.
However, Lim added that the Pakatan Harapan federal government had already announced a 50 per cent share with the states and is committed to carrying out the disbursement as promised.