By Shannon Teoh
PUTRAJAYA, May 23 — Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir declared Perak “debt-free” after the state transferred RM999.2 million in water assets to Putrajaya’s Pengurusan Aset Air Berhad (PAAB) in exchange for it taking an equivalent amount in water-related debt.
The Perak mentri besar told a press conference that the state had now wiped out debts to all parties except for RM72 million to the federal government for public housing projects and a loan taken for construction of the state secretariat building.
However, as the state’s water managers Lembaga Air Perak (LAP) will lease back the assets over a period of 45 years before it is handed back to the board, Zambry acknowledged it was a “restructuring of the 22-year water loan.”
“We are debt-free. If we use the same standards as Penang, then we have no debt at all,” the Pangkor assemblyman said.
Penang had declared last October that it lopped off RM600 million or 95 per cent of the state’s debt since Pakatan Rakyat (PR) took over the state in March 2008.
But Barisan Nasional (BN) pointed out that Penang’s outstanding loan of RM655 million was absorbed in a similar transfer of water assets to PAAB in June 2011.
PAAB chairman Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali also said that the move would make LAP “asset light” and improve its annual profits by RM25 million, nearly a quarter more than the net profit posted last year of RM104 million.
All states in Peninsular Malaysia must transfer their water assets to the federal government to clear their water-related liabilities under the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA).