GEORGE TOWN, Aug 3 ― The Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government did not take over Penang's debts for free, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.
He said the debt takeover was in return for Penang to surrender its Water Supply Corporation.
“The water debts were incurred by the previous BN state government and it is only fair to return those water debts to the BN federal government,” Lim said in a statement, in response to Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.
Abdul Rahman claimed Penang's debt reduction was made possible by the federal government through a water restructuring agreement in 2011.
He said it was through the agreement that the federal government had converted RM655.24 million of existing state debt to 45 annual lease payments of RM14.56 million.
Lim said the water restructuring deal, taking over of water debts and surrender of assets was not special to Penang but also applied to all other states.
“This water restructuring deal involved a surrender of state rights by the BN state governments before 2008.
“In 2005 there was an amendment to the Federal Constitution that put ‘water supplies and services’ from the State list to the Concurrent List in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution,” he pointed out.
He added that the Penang government is the only state that did not have any outstanding debt payment arrears at end 2016.
He accused Abdul Rahman of being “so desperately jealous” of the Penang government’s record and wanted to claim credit for the state’s debt reduction.
He insisted again that his state government “had no help from the federal government” and that all the debt repayments were made on time.