(Penang, Sunday): The 2001 Budget presented by the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin is another example of the lack of full budget openness, accountability and transparency by not giving Malaysians the whole picture in the government’s public finances.
Three days before the budget presentation, the Rural Development Minister, Datuk Azmi Khalid announced that the Cabinet had approved a payment of RM560 million to Terengganu for projects ranging from public infrastructure and scholarships to soft loans for small businesses under a special scheme for this year and the next.
Azmi said he could not confirm whether the RM560 million was the final amount Terengganu would receive under the scheme, stating that the matter would be clarified by the Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin when he presented his 2001 Budget on Friday.
Daim however did not make any clarification in his budget speech on Friday, apart from reiterating that the Terengganu state oil royalty which the Federal government had hijacked from the PAS Terengganu state government would be channelled to the people of Terengganu through the Federally-run Wang Ehsan Financing Programme.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said after the budget speech on Friday that PAS had no reason to get angry with the term "Wang Ehsan" (compassionate payment) used in Budget 2001 in place of oil royalty, as it was just a change in name which did not affect the benefits that would be enjoyed by the people of Terengganu, claiming "A rose by any other name smells just as sweet".
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi even said that PAS should be happy for the people of Terengganu because the Government was giving them a much bigger allocation for development projects this year compared with the amount that they would have received through oil royalty.
Both Mahathir and Abdullah are guilty of the most dishonest sophistry to justify the Federal government’s unilateral and arbitrary hijacking of the state oil royalty from the Terengganu state government.
Was Abdullah honest, sincere and right when he claimed that the Federal Government is very generous with the people of Terengganu by giving a much bigger allocation for development projects this year as compared with the amount that they would have received through oil royalty?
Early this year, Petronas estimated that "based on the agreement signed in 1975" between Petronas and Terengganu, the Terengganu state government’s five per cent oil royalty this year would come to RM810 million, and it paid RM432 million to the Terengganu state government in February as the first-half payment.
The balance of the payment was scheduled to be paid to the Terengganu state government in August but was hijacked by the Federal government.
With the highest-ever international oil prices, national export earnings of crude petroleum for the year is now expected to increase by 27.7 per cent to RM11.88 billion (as compared to the original estimate of RM9.24 billion) while earnings from liquefied natural gas is expected to increase by 52.8 per cent to RM9.70 billion (as compared to the original estimate of RM6.02 billion).
Such sharp hikes in oil prices would also mean sharp increases in the oil royalty for Terengganu ranging from 27 to 52 per cent, which means a staggering increase of from RM218 million to RM421 million as compared to the original RM810 million estimate. This would mean that the Federal government’s approval of RM560 million as equivalent to balance of the oil royalty this year still fall far short of the amount the people and state of Terengganu are entitled - to the tune which ranges between RM136 million to RM339 million.
Daim should without any ado disclose the whole picture as to what the
Terengganu state would have been entitled to this year on the basis of
five per cent oil royalty taking into account the unprecedentedly high
oil prices - to convince the people of Terengganu and Malaysia that the
Federal Government has not short-changed the Terengganu state under the
Wang Ehsan scheme by pocketting the balance of the revised oil royalty