Sarawak on road to bankruptcy? State official rebuts Guan Eng’s claim, insists has huge reserves

SUPP Youth chief Michael Tiang says Sarawak is resource rich and has huge reserves to guarantee its financial stability. — Picture by Sulok Tawie
SUPP Youth chief Michael Tiang says Sarawak is resource rich and has huge reserves to guarantee its financial stability. — Picture by Sulok Tawie

KUCHING, June 22 ― Sarawak is resource rich and has huge reserves to guarantee its financial stability, the political secretary to Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg said today.

Michael Tiang, who is also Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) Youth chief, was responding to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng’s assertion last night that the state could face bankruptcy in as short as three years.

But Tiang said there is also no need for the state government to dip into its reserves as it has enough revenue from its oil-and-gas sector to cover development spending.

“Just by implementing the 5 per cent sales tax on petroleum and petroleum products starting this January, the state government will collect RM3.8 billion this year and in fact RM2 billion has been collected since last January,” he said.

At a Sarawak DAP dinner gathering last night, Lim, who is also the federal finance minister, claimed that Malaysia’s largest state would go bankrupt within three years due to its large budget.

Lim claimed that is the Sarawak set its budget at RM11 billion every year, it would exhaust its reserves of RM30 billion, leaving the state with nothing.

The RM11 billion figure was based on Sarawak’s 2019 Budget, which Abang Johari tabled last year. Sarawak’s main revenue was projected to come from the sales tax on petroleum and petroleum products.

Abang Johari had also said about RM9 billion of the RM11.9 billion would be for development and the rest, for operating expenditures.

Tiang said today that the state government has to increase its development allocation because the Pakatan Harapan federal government only budgeted RM4.3  billion for Sarawak this year.

He added that it is Sarawak’s resources and wealth that actually sustains national developments which are mainly focused in the peninsula.

“Therefore, Lim, as a finance minister, owes Sarawak a duty to promote the state’s financial and economic growth, and bring more investments  since we are a critical contributor of revenues to Malaysia.

“And definitely not making such irresponsible and untruthful speculations that Sarawak will go bankrupt in three years. It is a plain foolishness for a finance minister to say those words in public,” Tiang said.            

The Sarawakian said he has never seen any finance minister in other countries would say anything that would tarnish the financial integrity of their country.

“He would be the first and therefore a laughing stock to the others,” he said, and asked Lim who would bear the losses if foreign investors shied away from Sarawak.

Tiang also reminded Lim not to label and treat Sarawak as an Opposition state, saying that Sarawak is one of the three founding nations of the Federation of Malaysia.

He said Lim may treat Pahang or Kelantan as Opposition states since they are part of Malaya, but when it comes to Sarawak, the federal government is constitutionally obliged to work and cooperate with the duly elected GPS government.