How do excessive federal powers affect Penang and other states in Malaysia?
To understand some of the constraints that state governments, especially Pakatan-ruled states, are operating under, check out this report in theSun on the Penang Forum.
NGOs alarmed at excessive federal govt powers
GEORGE TOWN (March 7, 2010): The impact of widespread federalism, or entrenched federal government powers in state affairs, is a serious concern that needs to be looked into, a forum to assess the Pakatan Rakyat’s two-year rule in Penang heard today.
Several NGO activists expressed concern over various matters in which the federal government exercised undue control, leaving the state authorities out of important local matters they should be handling.
Aliran secretary Dr Francis Loh pointed to agencies like the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), under the Prime Minister’s Department, which issues permits and regulates public transport like buses and taxis in the state, as well as the Penang Port whose officials are appointed by the finance and transport ministries.
He also noted that federal allocations under the 9th Malaysia Plan were being channelled to the State Development Office (SDO) under the Prime Minister’s Department, which does not report its funding and mechanisms to the state authorities.
“All funds are channelled to the SDO, not to the state. The Penang government has no say in this matter,” he said at the forum entitled ‘Penang: Has anything changed after two years?’ at the Caring Society Complex here.
Penang Island municipal councillor Lim Kah Cheng noted the federal government had authority over licensing and implementation of public cleaning projects.
Noting that such powers were given to the federal and not state authorities under the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Act approved by Parliament in 2007, she said she opposed any plans for a single company to be appointed by the federal government to oversee cleaning operations in the state.
Economist Lim Mah Hui noted that of Malaysia’s annual budget of RM207 billion, only RM0.45 billion was given to Penang although the state’s GDP of RM44 billion formed a sizeable amount of the national GDP of RM505 billion.
He also expressed apprehension that the state had limited land of its own to use, as only 12% of the Penang’s non-hilly terrain was under the state.
Concerns were also raised about programmes for conservation of the George Town’s Unesco World Heritage Site, with the state government failing to get necessary federal allocation to maintain and preserve the site.
Loh also said a think tank formed by Khazanah Nasional Bhd to vet and disburse some RM20 million for heritage programmes, obtained through a federal allocation, should be dismantled.
He said the allocation should be given to the state, as it was the authority accountable to the ratepayers. — theSun.