Our trip to China above board, says Chief Minister of Penang

GEORGE TOWN - The Penang state government will consider disclosing the expenses it incurred on future overseas trips after a recent official visit to Xiamen and Hainan, China, ran into controversy.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the trip to China was "above board".

"I will need to discuss with the state executive council about making it a standard practice to disclose the cost," he said after presenting aid to students here yesterday.

On Friday, state MCA secretary Lau Chiek Tuan accused Lim of adopting "double standards" to justify the decision to bring along spouses on the official trip.

Lim, he pointed out, had previously criticised Barisan Nasional for wasting public funds by bringing along their spouses on such trips.

The delegation had comprised an entourage of 21, including Lim, his wife Betty Chew, state executive councillors Chow Kon Yeow, Chong Eng and Phee Boon Poh and their spouses, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey, Bagan Dalam assemblyman A. Tanasekharan and assistant state secretary (local government division) Oon Lai Kuan.

In a statement, Lim said that the state government spent RM93,910 (S$36,500) for the trip to take part in the Xiamen-Penang 20th anniversary celebration and the 17th Inter-Islands Tourism Policy forum in Hainan from Nov 4 to 9.

He had also said that the cost for overseas travel in the first five years under the Pakatan Rakyat state government was RM618,000, which was just 35 per cent of the RM1.766mil expenditure incurred by Barisan Nasional over the previous five years (2004-2008).

The state government, added Lim, had managed to lure foreign direct investments valued at RM5.09bil in 2008, RM1.44bil in 2009, RM10.45bil in 2010 and RM7.15bil in 2011 and that Penang secured the top spot in the country for FDIs between 2010 and 2013.

Lim said 10 cultural performers who also took part in the anniversary Xiamen celebrations but they did not accompany the delegation to Hainan.