KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — The Kelantan government would not be able to operate if not for federal funding, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
He noted that the PAS-led state government was heavily reliant on financial aid given by the federal government even though the Kelantanese business acumen is very good.
“I’m sorry for saying the truth. The state government does not fund itself.
“Federal assistance must be given to help Kelantan. This is due to the lack of tax collection,” he said during a dialogue session at the Congress on the Future of Bumiputera and the Nation at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.
He said this was unfortunate because the state possessed a large pool of talent who were especially sharp at doing business, but had to leave Kelantan to prosper.
“Actually, Kelantanese are really smart. If we notice, they are all over the country doing their own businesses. Even my former aide is from Kelantan,” he quipped.
“The question is why can’t they do the same in their own state?
“The environment must be studied. I’m confident if the Kelantanese can fix the existing situation, the state can be developed better,” he added.
Other dignitaries present at the event include Kelantan Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yakob, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar and PKR president Datuk Anwar Ibrahim.
In his keynote speech earlier, Dr Mahathir suggested that the federal government may look into building more highways in the rural northeastern state to develop it further.
“When we have the money, we can review if we can add more expressways in Kelantan not just train projects,” he said.
Dr Mahathir had recently announced the cancellation of the ambitious RM55 billion, 688km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) that was to connect the east coast of peninsula Malaysia and its more developed west coast, saying the Pakatan Harapan federal government did not have the funds to carry out.
The ECRL project had been a key infrastructure project under the previous Barisan Nasional administration led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak to boost Malaysia’s transformation into a first-world nation.