ALOR STAR, Nov 29 - Compensation for Kedah’s contributions to the countrywas a theme that was repeated in the State Assembly today when abackbencher called on the Federal Government to pay the State RM1.2billion a year.Datuk Dr Afifuddin Omar (BN-Kuala Nerang) said the State would have earnedRM1.2 billion a year if it had used its land to plant oil palm instead ofrice.
By planting rice, Afifuddin, who is a former Deputy Finance Minister, saidthe State allowed the Federal Government to save billions in ringgitannually from rice imports since Kedah provides 70 per cent of thenation's rice needs.
"If we don't plant rice, the Federal Government suffers, but when we do,we suffer. We have a lot of alluvial soil that is also suitable forplanting oil palm.
"The State would have earned RM1.2 billion annually if it had planted oilpalm instead of padi.
"So, if we are condemned to planting rice, we should ask forcompensation," he said when debating the motion of thanks to the Sultan ofKedah's opening address today.
When opening the assembly yesterday, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah saidthe State Government should be compensated for setting aside about122,000ha for a water catchment area for the Muda and Pedu dams.
Water from the two dams is also used to meet Penang's and Perlis' domesticand agricultural needs.
Afifuddin said the Federal Government should also compensate the Stateabout RM100 million annually for revenue lost for not logging the forest.It should also compensate the State for supplying Perlis with water, headded.
Afifuddin felt the Federal Government could consider amending theConstitution so that more wealth was distributed to the State, instead ofgiving monetary compensation.
He said in the Constitution, wealth was to be distributed to the Statesbased on the respective State's population, the amount of federal roads init and its exportable commodities.
As Kedah had very little in terms of population, federal roads orexportable commodities, Afifuddin argued the Article should be amended toinclude "strategic crops" such as rice.
"The Federal Government feels that it compensates the State by givingdevelopment projects, but these projects are not enough.
"The amount of money needed to develop infrastructure in the State'sremote areas is RM250 million annually while the value of its projects isa fraction of that," he said.