GEORGE TOWN, Dec 31 — Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng praised today his own administration for its ability to mantain the rates and tariff on state services while chiding the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government for a slew of nationwide price hikes set to roll out from tomorrow.
Lim, who is into his second-term in office, gleefully pointed out that under his leadership, Penang has been successful in keeping inflation from seeping into the rates for state services, including quit rent, water tariffs and business licences, compared to the federal government.
Putrajaya slashed fuel subsidies and announced a hike in electricity tariff rates in an austerity drive to prevent Malaysia's sovereign debt from hitting a self-imposed critical ceiling of 55 per cent its GDP, which is forecast to have a domino effect on other goods and services nationwide in the year ahead.
“In contrast to the federal government, Penang is not imposing any price hikes on local services except for an increase on penalties for consumers who waste water,” Lim said in his New Year message today.
The secretary-general of the federal opposition DAP condemned Putrajaya for raising the prices for petrol at the pumps, sugar, electricity consumption, highway tolls and assessment rates.
He pointed out that the only raise was in the penalty for water usage, saying Penang has the highest water consumption rate in the country and needed to adjust the penalty sum as part of an environmental protection programme to force Penangites to better conserve water.
“Even after the increase in penalties to conserve water, those who waste water still pay the lowest water tariffs in the country,” he said.
While the state’s water tariffs remained at a very low 22 sen per 1,000 litres for the first 20,000 litres, the Penang Water Supply Corporation had raised the water conservation surcharge (WCS) from 24 sen to 48 sen per 1,000 litres for domestic users who consumer more than 35,000 litres of water per month.
The WCS was introduced to encourage domestic users to cut down on water wastage as Penang domestic users consume an average of 302 litres per person per day, which is more than the national average of 210 litres and three times more than the United Nations recommendation of between 50 and 100 litres.
Lim then said the new year will be a make or break year for Penang especially with the opening of the second Penang Bridge by the end of January next year.
“2014 will be a make or break year for Penang to fulfil its aspirations as a destination of choice for tourists, as a livable city of choice for residents and a location of choice for manufacturing, services and business process outsourcing (BPO) hub,” he said.
He said the state government hopes that opening of the new bridge linking Batu Maung on the island to Batu Kawan on the mainland will serve as a catalyst of growth in Seberang Perai to move the state up and out of the middle-income trap.
The Penang lawmaker said the state government will rely on the energy, expertise and entrepreneurship of its human talent to realise its vision of making Penang an international and intelligent city.
He said the state had invested resources since 2008 to transform Penang into a high-income economy as not only the sweatshop but also the smartshop of the manufacturing and services sector.
“As Penang has no natural resources and can not expect any external public funding, the market will play its resource allocation role to source human talent, capital, resources, infrastructure, technology and sales for our growth,” he said.
He reiterated that the state is proud with the continuance of its cash assistance programmes of RM150 million to schools, dialysis centres, free wifi and directly to the 1.6 million Penangites since 2008.
“The biggest challenge we have to face now is still in public transport because co-operation, support and approval from the federal government in this is essential,” he said.
He called on the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to fulfil his commitment made during the National Christmas Day Open House celebrations in Penang that both the federal and state governments rise above competing interests to work for the good of the people.