Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has responded to criticism over the state’s land sales by reiterating that his administration has sold less land than his predecessors in terms of acreage, but had earned far more for the sales.

“Penang sold land 36 times less than BN, but yet got more money because Penang conducts public open competitive tenders,” said Lim in a statement last night.

He said from the early nineties to 2008, the BN-led state government had sold a total of 3,661 acres amounting to RM1.0586 billion in revenue, while the Harapan-led government from 2008 has only sold a total 106.1acres for RM1.1102 billion.

Lim also denied allegations that BN leaders had made in recent months that Penang was dependent on land sales to fund its operations.

Of the land sales revenue, he said, RM939.2 million has gone to Penang Development Corporation (PDC) for the affordable housing fund, which he said only left RM439.32 million or 10.4 percent for state expenditure.

“This shows the revenue from land sales isn’t the main source of income to fund the state’s expenditure,” he said, adding that came from tax revenue (RM628.34 million or 15 percent), non-tax revenue excluding land sale (RM1.69 billion, 40 percent) and non-revenue receipts (RM952.96 million, 23 percent).

Lim also defended the RM156 million sale of land for a high-value investment of RM2 billion by the existing Island Hospital to build the largest private hospital in Malaysia as an “economic game-changer”.

“This RM2 billion investment is an economic game-changer that will help to establish Penang as a medical city,” he said, adding it would create 2,000 high-value job opportunities and attract back oversees talent in the medical field.

Direct negotiations for such projects, said Lim, was the “international norm”.

“Compare the RM156 million sale to the RM38 billion of open tenders conducted by Penang,” he said.

Pua: No moral standing

On Thursday, MCA vice-president Chew Mei Fun alleged that “unrestrained” sale of land in Penang would “compromise the people’s future”.

She referred to the 2016 auditor-general’s report which revealed that the lion’s share of the Penang state government’s income was derived from the proceeds of selling state land and that the special land transfer fees rose 1,088.7 percent in a year.

DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua slammed Chew saying she should “look into the mirror before false making accusations”.

“If Chew didn’t fail her mathematics, she should have figured that Harapan has barely sold 3 percent of what BN had sold,” he said in a statement today.

“By the very fact that we have successfully sold these lands for substantially higher prices than the (previous) BN government, of course it would naturally result in a higher contribution from land revenue to the state coffers, as reported by the auditor-general.

“In addition, figures from the BN’s era from 2002 to 2007 auditor-general’s reports also showed the sale and transfer of state land was a key contributor to the state.

“Hence, the only difference was Harapan received much more, despite selling much less,” he said.

Pua questioned Chew’s “moral standing” in raising the matter when her party MCA had also allegedly betrayed the trust of voters, referring to allegations Selangor MCA had purhased a one-acre plot in Kampung Cempaka in Petaling Jaya at RM1 per square-foot, arguing the price should be in the range of RM400 per square-foot.

“What amazes me … is the cheek Chew Mei Fun has to actually criticise Penang on the alleged ‘unrestrained land sale’.”

MCA Selangor has rubbished the allegations saying the deal had followed ordinary protocol and was completely above board, while Chew has threatened to sue Pua for alleging she had a hand in the award.

– M’kini