GEORGE TOWN, Sept 6 — A former Umno assemblyman and Penang Gerakan has criticised the Penang state government for its plans to sell state lands to increase its revenue.
Former Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Muhamad Farid Saad said the Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow listed four strategies to increase state revenue and all of them were related to land and selling off lands for revenue.
He pointed out the state had sold more than 1,100 acres of state land valued at more than RM13 billion between 2011 and 2015.
“And now, the year of 2021, they are still using the same mechanism of selling land to increase revenue,” he said.
He added that by saying the state is still selling lands but now through open tender meant that there was no transparency in previous land transactions.
“By saying that they are going for open tender now, indirectly they are admitting that all previous transactions are not transparent and they engaged directly to certain applicants as claimed by Chow,” he said.
Penang Gerakan chairman Oh Tong Keong also echoed his sentiments by emphasising on the large tracts of state lands that have been sold by the Pakatan Harapan state government between 2011 and 2015.
“The people are saddened by Chow’s explanation that this step has to be taken for the economic development of the state, this goes to show the failure of the state government in managing its economy,” Oh said.
Last week, during the state legislative assembly, Chow said the state has to implement four strategies to increase its revenue that has dropped this year.
The first strategy he announced was the selling of state lands through open tender and the second strategy was to transfer all state industrial lands that are dormant to Penang Development Corporation (PDC).
The third strategy is to reclassify the rural lands to urban lands in developed areas such as Bayan Baru and Bukit Mertajam and the fourth strategy is to convert lands of unclear ownership into interim register (IR) lands which will benefit the state in the form of adding to the state’s land bank which can be disposed of eventually.
Oh said the transfer of lands to PDC just for the state to collect quit rent was an action that does not make sense.
Muhamad Farid proposed that instead of merely transferring industrial lands to PDC, PDC should develop these lands so that they will have a steady and long-term cash flow instead of selling it off again.
As for the reclassification of rural land into urban land, he warned that this could lead to the displacement of the poor for the rich.
Finally, on the conversion of lands of unclear ownership into IR lands to add to the state’s land banks, Muhamad Farid said the land office and state government must tread carefully as there are those who inherited lands from their forefathers and could have lost their grants to prove ownership.
“The land office and state government should come up with a special arrangement and approach to determine the beneficiary and ownership of the land and not to seize the land,” he said.
He added that seizing lands that had belonged to a family for generations is a cruel action.
Oh said it would seem that the PH state government does not have a proper strategy to spur economic recovery but can only fall back on selling lands.
“This must be a DAP economic theory, sell any existing lands in any conditions possible just to generate revenue,” he said.