Uggah dismisses Soon Koh’s claims

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas

KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas has dismissed former finance minister Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh’s allegation that the state government lacked the means to pay for the Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid Package (BKSS).

Uggah said the people of Sarawak could rest assured that the state had the financial resources to implement the BKSS.

“I was shocked to read the allegation by Bawang Assan Assemblyman (Wong) appearing in The Borneo Post on May 5 questioning the government’s ability and even pointing out that there is no Contingency Fund approved for 2020.

“The state has the financial resources to implement all its programmes, including the RM2.55-billion BKSS package meant to address the impact of Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Uggah, who is also the Second Finance Minister, explained that the financial sources are the state’s Contingency Fund, in the 2020 Development Budget (under the micro credit schemes), savings from unimplemented projects and savings from development fund account, and RM1 billion from Bank Negara (special relief fund) for which the state only absorbs the interest subsidy,” he said in his opening remarks during the one-day State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting, yesterday.

Uggah even cited Wong’s statement in a newspaper article which stated, “There is no provision for any Contingency Fund in the 2020 State Budget, let alone one which can pay for the RM2.26 billion aid package. It calls into question how the chief minister can appropriate such a large fund without approval of the DUN.”

“It is indeed baffling to see someone who had served as a second finance minister for 15 years could be so out of touch with the state’s financial system let alone the financial mechanism that he had supported before his resignation less than a year ago,” he said.

On the issue raised by Wong in the article entitled ‘The Budget that never was and never will be’, Uggah said the state government was looking into its implications.

“Although the government accepts constructive criticism, it reserves the right to take measures to protect itself from insinuations of improper motives as well as attempts to embarrass the government,” he said.

Wong, who is Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president, said on May 5 that due to the loss of revenue caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the state government needed to review all its development plans under its 2020 State Budget.

He called on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to re-look at all the projects and cancel those which were not critical.