Khazanah to maintain Penang heritage sites, not state
Keeping in line with the policy not to give money to the opposition, the Barisan Nasional-ruled federal government has instead directed state asset manager Khazanah Nasional Berhad to maintain heritage sites in Penang.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in a written reply to a DAP parliamentarian in the Dewan Rakyat, said the government has allocated RM50 million for the purpose under the 2009 Budget, of which RM20 million is for Penang while Malacca gets RM30 million. Both states have areas under the Unesco World Heritage list.
Najib, who is also Finance Minister, said Khazanah will manage the funds for Penang while Malacca will get the funds through the Heritage Funds Group under the Information, Communication and Cultural Ministry.
Liew Chin Tong, DAP MP for Bukit Bendera who made the query, later expressed to The Malaysian Insider that it was absurd for the federal government to channel the money to maintain the heritage site in Penang through Khazanah, a sovereign wealth fund that manages some RM70 billion in assets.
“Why not give it to the state government when the heritage site is in Penang?” he said, adding that the government must explain the rationale behind the move.
DAP has been at the forefront in demanding that state governments be given financial autonomy.
Currently the financial streams into the individual states including Pakatan Rakyat-controlled ones are tightly controlled by the Barisan Nasional-led federal government.
Liew also question the difference in amount given to both PR-led Penang and BN-controlled Malacca when the former has a bigger heritage site to maintain.
Penang’s George Town and Malacca’s old township were declared heritage sites under the Unesco World Heritage Sites last year.
It is understood that Khazanah has called several Penang-born officials within its organisation to mull some ideas for the “Pearl of the Orient”. Among the ideas is a proposal for a “Think City” but details are still sketchy; they involve giving out grants but it has yet to be communicated to the state government.
Some senior leaders within the Penang government have questioned Khazanah’s involvement in Penang as it is primarily an investment arm of the federal government and has its hands full developing the Iskandar Development Region.
“It’s a bit strange for Khazanah to take care of heritage sites. It looks like a jack of all trades and the master of none,” a senior state leader told The Malaysian Insider.