The Real Legacy Of Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud As Both Chief Minister And The New State Minister Of Finance Is To Dare To Demand From The Federal Government And Get A Fairer And More Equal Share Of Sarawak’s Natural Resources And Earnings

Press Conference Statement

Lim Guan Eng

(Kuching, Monday): I would like to start off with a question posed by many friends from Sarawak:

Why Should Sarawak Being A Major Oil And LPG Exporting State, Suffer Diesel Shortages And Pay Diesel Prices Higher Than Oil-Importer Indonesia?

For a major oil and Liquefied Natural Gas (LPG) exporting state such as Sarawak to suffer diesel shortages until transport companies have to stop operating and lorry drivers hold protest strikes is neither rational nor logical. Sarawakians are equally puzzled why an oil exporter like Sarawak have higher diesel prices at RM 1.08 per liter as compared to Indonesia’s RM 0.84  per liter, despite Indonesia being an oil importer.

These problems arise primarily because Sarawakians are not in control of the natural resources they are supposed to own. As owners of these natural resources, if Sarawakians are also in control then such problems as diesel shortages and expensive fuel price increases can be managed.

The recent fuel price increases would enable the government to save RM 2.2 billion in subsidies. Petronas makes profits of 23.6 billion in 2004 and Malaysians do not know how such profits are spent for the people’s benefit. What is RM 2.2 billion in subsidies saved compared to RM 23.6 billion in profits?  DAP disagrees that fuel subsidies should be abolished because the government has a socio-economic responsibility to look after the poor. But subsidies should be gradually reduced to reduce costs, increase productivity and competition.

The 2004 Bank Negara Annual Report showed that for 2004, Malaysia increased its export value of crude oil to RM 21.3 billion and LPG to RM 17.1 billion. Malaysia exported 20.7 million tones or 16% of the world’s LNG exports, mainly from Bintulu. If Malaysia can afford to export a total of RM 38.4 billion exports in petroleum products, something is very wrong that Malaysians have to face diesel shortages and high prices.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Haji Taib Mahmud should explain to Sarawakians how much of the RM 38.4 billion in exports of petroleum products in 2004 is derived from Sarawak? Presenting his maiden 2005 Sarawak State Budget last year, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud revealed that Sarawak collected only RM 832 million from the oil and gas sector, a mere 2% of petroleum exports amounting to RM 38.4 billion.  Depending on Sarawak’s contribution Malaysia’s total exports last year, the difference between RM 832 million in revenue obtained by Sarawak as compared to RM 38.4 billion worth of petroleum exports by the country as a whole is a difference between heaven and earth.

As the new State Finance Minister, he should fight for the interests of Sarawakians to ensure that they have not been shortchanged of their own natural resources. DAP is willing to support Tan Sri Taib if he can summon up the courage to demand from the Federal Government a larger, fairer and more equal share of Sarawak’s natural resources and earnings.

This could be the real legacy of Tan Sri Taib Mahmud not only as the new Finance Minister but also as Sarawak Chief Minister – to fight for a more equitable share of Sarawak’s natural resources for the development of Sarawak to benefit Sarawakians.


*  Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General