My ‘revenue engineering’ will propel Sarawak forward — CM

Posted on : 07 Aug 2019  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Abang Johari cuts a cake presented to him during the dinner to celebrate his 69th birthday, witnessed by distinguished guests who had earlier joined the crowd in surprising the chief minister with a ‘Happy Birthday’ song.

LAWAS: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg says he is utilising ‘revenue engineering’ to fund the development of Sarawak and to steer the state towards greater financial independence from Putrajaya.

He said while his approach is different from that of his predecessor, the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, the objective is similar – to allow for greater autonomy in state planning and alternative funding.

Penghulu Dennis Liaw (left) presents Abang Johari with a photo of the chief minister’s father, Sarawak’s first Yang di-Pertua Negeri the late Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee, who had visited Lawas during his stint as a native officer in Limbang.

“We can stand on our own feet but under the Federal Constitution, the federal government must allocate funds to Sarawak as they are collecting corporate, individual, port and other forms of taxes from us,” he said during a dinner at Lawas Indoor Stadium on Monday as part of his two-day working visit to northern Sarawak.

Abang Johari, who chaired a coordination meeting here yesterday on state-wide development projects to ensure smooth implementation, said Sarawak’s sound financial position coupled with the new approach has enabled the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government to fund the many infrastructure projects throughout the state.

It has even allowed Sarawak to repay the RM1 billion in loans demanded by Putrajaya to fund the repair of some 400 dilapidated schools in the state, he added.

Abang Johari revealed that he was inspired to impose the state sales tax on petroleum products while examining the State Constitution after performing prayers before the last Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) convention last year.

“I noticed the sales taxation provision which was never enforced in the state and consulted with State Attorney-General Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid on the interpretation.”

He said he was happy when informed by Talat that it meant that imposing a sales tax on natural resources such as petroleum products that were meant for export was legal within the state’s right.

“KL (Putrajaya) was caught by surprise as I did not seek its consent (to impose the sales tax). The IGC (Inter-Governmental Committee) Report on such taxes affects the state and we don’t have to seek federal approval, unlike other forms of taxes as required under the constitution,” he added.

The chief minister said this was how the additional RM3 billion of revenue came into effect, enabling the Sarawak government to fund the construction of bridges, roads, welfare programmes and other projects to benefit the people and the state.

Limbang-born Abang Johari, meanwhile, said he saw huge potential in Limbang and Lawas’ development, which would be boosted by the Northern Region Development Agency led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.

Abang Johari (front, fourth right), flanked by Awang Tengah and Fatimah, and others chant the GPS slogan ‘Sarawak First’ during the dinner on Monday.

The ongoing projects, including the iconic waterfronts in Limbang and Lawas, proposed oil and gas refinery, point to a bright future if the people remained united behind the GPS government, he added.

“It is going to be a busy time for the people in the next five to 10 years across the state.”

Among those present at the dinner were Awang Tengah, Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi; Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah; Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah and acting State Secretary Datu Jaul Samion.