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By Zalinah Noordin

GEORGE TOWN, April 3:

Penang’s Pakatan Rakyat government has been slammed by Penang Gerakan over its plan to hike the water tariff.

Its secretary, Oh Tong Keong, described the move as an act of hypocrisy while the party’s national youth chief Tan Keng Liang slammed it as dishonouring Pakatan’s own election promise.

Oh accused Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng of practising double standards and “swallowing his own words”.

He cited the fact that Lim and other Pakatan leaders cried foul loudly when the federal government exercised subsidy rationalisation to strengthen the economy.

He recalled that the Chief Minister had proudly claimed in this year’s New Year message that his government would not increase quit rent, water tariff, assessment rate and the business licence fee for this year and next year.

“But when the Pakatan-run state government increased water rates, he claimed it was a ‘rational and reasonable decision’.

“I call this as practising double standards and simply absurd … don’t be a hypocrite,” said Oh in a statement today.

Tan, on the other hand, called on Lim to honour Pakatan’s pledge made during last year’s general election that the coalition government would keep the water tariff at a low rate to ease people’s financial burden.

He said Pakatan had pledged in its 13th general election (GE13) manifesto that its state governments and federal government would work towards lowering the water tariff with a guarantee that people needed only to pay reasonable management costs.

Tan said Pakatan also pledged that “regulating and maintaining the water tariff at a low rate will ease the people’s living costs”.

However, he said barely less than a year after GE13, the Penang DAP-run government was already thinking about hiking the water tariff.

‘It will be the third water tariff hike for Penang’

If increased, he said it would be the third water tariff hike since the DAP-helmed Pakatan Rakyat state government took power after the 2008 general election.

Previously, Tan said Lim’s government introduced a 24 sen per 1,000 litres of water conservation surcharge (WCS) for consumers using water in excess of 35,000 litres per month in 2010.

Last year, after the GE13, he recalled that the Pakatan government again increased the WCS rate by 100% to 48 sen per 1,000 litres.

“WCS is in effect a form of water tariff hike faced by Penangites, though named something else.

“It will still indirectly burden Penangites and clearly goes against Pakatan’s GE13 manifesto. It’s breaking its pledge to voters.

“Gerakan Youth urges Lim to reconsider any plan to increase the water tariff and honour Pakatan’s election pledge to voters,” said Tan in a statement.

In announcing the state plan yesterday, Lim said the imminent water tariff hike was inevitable as a soft approach to reduce usage had failed.

Lim, who is also the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chairman, said the last revision on the Penang water tariff was done 23 years ago.

Currently, water in Penang is priced at RM0.31 per litre for the first 35,000 litres, which is comparatively cheaper than the national average of RM0.66.

Even after a new hike, Lim assured that the tariff would still be the cheapest in the country.

However, Gerakan’s Oh said Lim’s claim (that hiked water rates would still be lowest in the country) was a mere remark “to suit his own taste”.

Oh reminded Lim that it was the previous Barisan Nasional state government, via its proper planning and farsightedness, that had enabled Penang people to enjoy lower rates than other states.

Penang MCA Youth chairman Michael Lee called Lim’s claim “poor” and “smacked of double standards”, especially since the latter chastised the BN for being uncaring about the people’s welfare when the federal government announced plans for subsidy rationalisation.

Lee said when Penang was under BN’s rule, the state’s water tariff was among the lowest in the nation but since DAP took over in 2008, it had increased the water tariffs several times.

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