PETALING JAYA – The Barisan Nasional strategic communications team has questioned the Penang government on its yearly operational costs that have gone up by 500% since DAP took over in 2008.

In a statement on Friday, it said that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had neglected to respond to queries on how the state government managed to collect revenue to cover the 500% increase in yearly spending and yet registered a surplus.

“We note that during the same period, the Federal Government’s spending has increased 35.3% compared to 500% for Penang,” it said.

Earlier, Lim reportedly said that the high administrative spending or operational costs was necessary to ensure that projects were well delivered.

The BN team also questioned the ways in which the Penang government received its funding.

“Is it from Federal Government funding, from taxing Penang people five times more via increases in assessment rates, fines or increasing water rates four times? Or is it from increasing sales of state land and assets?” it said.

It added that if the additional revenue was indeed from the sale of state land and assets, then why couldn’t the state government “sell one more piece of land” that was valued at RM1bil or above to avoid borrowing from EXIM bank of China and incur interest costs.

“Is this because there are now no more valuable state land or assets to sell as what Penang Exco Chow Kon Yeow had said?” it said.

It also asked if the practise of selling depleting state assets to cover an increasingly big annual operational expense can be considered as sustainable long-term good governance and also sought confirmation from Lim if Chow’s statements to The Edge were accurate.

Chow was reported saying that the cost of the Penang Transport Masterplan project had increased from RM27bil to RM46bil.

“If it is accurate then how would the Penang state government fund this RM19bil increase? Will this be from loans from EXIM bank or from other banks?” it added.