Thursday, 28 January 2016


Audery Dermawan, NST
Penangites are annoyed with the DAP-led state government’s recent revelation that it only had a very small land bank left.

In fact, many did not take kindly to senior state executive councillor Chow Kon Yeow’s admission that Penang cannot fund its own highly ambitious RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) even if it sells all the land it has, which warranted massive land reclamations.

In recent weeks, several photos made their way onto social media, with insinuations about the state government’s land deals. One of them showed that Penang’s land bank had dropped from 18 per cent in 2008, when it came to power, to six per cent in 2014.

It also showed the state government’s expenditure had increased from RM270 million in 2008 to RM832 million in 2014. Another photo had the words “Many Foreign Developer (sic) lobbying Penang State Govt for Land in Penang … Is Penang on sale now?

Disgruntled netizens took to social media to post various comments about the state’s land deals. Among the postings were: “DAP-led Penang government sold about 66 per cent of land left by previous BN government. The land drop from 18 per cent to 6 per cent within 8 years. Would there be anything left for future generations if it continues to sell land?”

“… HIS (referring to Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng) father’s land?”. “

DULU dia kutuk kerajaan Kelantan … juai tanah n pajak hutan untuk projek balak laa nii apa dah jadi sendiri ludah sendiri jilat.” (Lim had previously condemned the Kelantan government for selling and leasing its land for logging projects but look what’s happening to Penang now.)

“LAGI sikit sudah habis jual!” (In no time, all the land will be sold.)

“LAGI satu penggal, rumput pun jual habis.” (One more term, and even all the grass will be sold off.)

Even the Auditor General’s Report in 2012 mentioned that Penang’s revenue was mainly derived from the sale of land as well as taxes and fees from such transactions. It showed that the state’s collections from land premium payments, which were typically payments from alienation of state land, had sky-rocketed more than 1,000 per cent, from RM19 million in 2008 to RM206 million in 2012.

Press reports in recent years also highlighted the sale of state land under Lim’s administration.

They include:

2011: 41ha in Bayan Mutiara (worth RM1.07 billion); 2013: 44ha in Gurney Drive (no cash involved);

2013: 16ha in Batu Kawan (RM65.34 million); 2014: 99ha in Batu Kawan (RM484 million);

2014: 12ha in Batu Kawan (RM67 million); 2014: 190ha in Batu Kawan (RM1.02 billion); and,

2014: 49 per cent of 80ha in Batu Kawan and 2ha in Bayan Lepas (no cash involved). There have been claims that the lands were sold for RM12.5 billion.

Lim should come forward to verify this figure. If it’s true, he has to justify the land sales. What are these lands used for?

The people are asking where all those billions of ringgit have gone to. What benefits did they derive from the land deals? In fact, some of the land sold have been replaced with high-rises and bungalows, which are beyond the means of the ordinary folk here.

What is even more saddening is the fact that many people here are still crying their hearts out for a decent roof over their heads. While the state had announced several affordable and public housing projects in recent years, the end products have yet to be seen in the majority of the cases.

The ball is now in the state government’s court to address the people’s displeasure. Lim has to do away with the argument that Barisan Nasional sold more land in Penang, yet received less money. The people should not be taken as fools as they know very well how land prices have skyrocketed in recent years.

People no longer buy such arguments. With only six per cent of state land left since 2014, one wonders whether the state government will have any land left in future to sell. After all, the lands are the people’s assets and should remain in their hands. Why sell off land which can be developed to help the people?

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