Fed Govt should release the RM1 billion flood mitigation fund, give aid to flood victims and suspend GST on Penang as State Govt rallies post-disaster efforts
The 5 November 2017 flood in Penang was unprecedented. Rainfall recorded the previous evening at 372mm was the highest ever in the history of Penang. The Meteorological Department concluded that this was due to radical changes in weather patterns. Many parts of Penang were flooded.
Even as the flood waters were subsiding and disaster relief work was still on-going, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng took quick action to launch “Pulau Pinang Bangkit”, a post-disaster programme to rebuild, reconstruct, and restore Penang to normalcy.
The Penang State Government took the lead by announcing a RM100 million allocation to the Pulau Pinang Bangkit programme, of which 50% will be channeled directly in the form of cash aid to flood victims. Affected household will receive RM500 each. This amount was later increased to RM700 to include donation from the public.
The State Government also announced a 50% discount on water bill and exemption of Water Conservation Surcharge for the next billing cycle. The two local councils will also provide a 10% reduction on assessment of all properties in Penang. State Government documents such as land title, damaged or lost in the flood will also be replaced for free.
Penangites, Malaysians and foreigners staying in this country joined hands to take part in flood relief works and post-disaster works. Through the weekends of 11 to 12 November 2017, declared by the State Government to be “Pulau Pinang Bangkit Volunteerism Day”, over 10,000 volunteers turned up to take part in various post-disaster works. In the worst-hit areas such as Taman Sri Rambai in Bukit Mertajam, huge piles of heavy water-soaked garbage on the streets were cleared in two days despite original projection that the garbage will take about two weeks to clear.
The business community also came together to show solidarity. Banks announced moratorium on loans repayments. Grab and Uber gave discounts on trips made in Penang. A network of 59 private clinics all over the state offered to provide free medical treatment for the next four weeks through the “Pulau Pinang Bangkit” Programme. Electrical appliances companies, furniture companies, and various car brands all offered free or substantial discounts on their products and services.
In short everyone rallied together to rebuild Penang.
While Prime Minister Najib Razak promised to help when he visited Penang during the flood, we have yet to hear of his specific aid.
As such, I urge the Prime Minister to immediately release the RM1 billion fund to implement flood mitigation projects promised by the federal government.
Secondly, on behalf of the people of Bukit Mertajam and Penang, I appeal to the Prime Minister to provide financial aid to flood victims just like what the Penang State Government has done and also following the Federal Government’s own precedent when it gave RM500 to victims of the December 2014 flood in Kelantan.
Finally, I want to call upon the Federal Government to suspend Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Penang till the end of the year. Many vendors have offered to sell products or services at cost or with substantial discounts to flood victims. Yet victims will still have to pay GST. As it is, GST is already a burden to the people. In a post-disaster situation, this will only aggravate. Suspending GST in the coming months will help to lighten the burdens of Penangites especially flood victims. Either this, or abolish GST altogether.
Steven Sim Chee Keong
MP for Bukit Mertajam