Sarawak, Sabah left ‘high and dry’
Many people in these two states are disappointed that the focus of Budget 2013 is all on the Peninsula.KUCHING: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s “pro-peninsula” budget has angered many people in Sabah and Sarawak.
Sarawak, which is among the poorest states in Malaysia, was hoping that the 32-year-old cabotage policy would be eased, roads and infrastructure would be improved and the high cost of domestic transport solved.
Prices are so high here that Najib even mentioned in his Budget 2013 speech that in remote Ba Kelalan constituency, the price of a 14kg gas cylinder is RM70.
But despite knowing the ground reality in Sarawak, “Santa Claus” Najib did not announce any long-term programmes to alleviate the hardship of the people.
Instead, the prime minister said more Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) stores would be set up in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan to offer “price uniformity” of essential goods.
He allocated RM386 million for 57 stores to be opened in these places. The money would also be used to bear the cost of delivering products in the interior.
He also allocated RM100 million to supply 40,000 water tanks for rainwater harvesting in the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak.
But the allocation came as a shock to some who see it as yet another Barisan Nasional scam in the making.
Said a FMT reader: “Giving RM100 million for 40,000 water tanks? That translates into RM2,500 a tank… the cost of a one unit 80-gallon poly water tank is about RM120. No wonder these BN cronies are laughing all the way to the banks. I give you some, you give me some.”
Another reader, Azman Hamid, said: “Who is going to get the contract to build those KR1M stores there (Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan)? Someone is going to get rich!
“But seriously instead of spending RM386 million, why not reduce the cost of transport?”
Disappointment for Sarawak
Stanley Teoh, another reader, urged Sarawakians to wake up.
“Instead of taking measures to bring Sabah and Sarawak into 2020 and beyond, the prime minister is talking about KR1M… sundry shops.
“With all those huge dams in Sarawak, he is talking about water tanks to harvest rainwater.”
“This is a rubbish budget for Sabah and Sarawak,” Teoh said.
In Miri, an activist said Najib’s budget had left Sarawak high and dry while keeping the people in the Peninsula happy.
“Overall, Budget 2013 is focused more on developing infrastructure in Peninsular Malaysia.
“But really, we are the ones in dire need of big allocations for infrastructure development…
“The federal government should have set aside allocations to improve the Pan Borneo Highway instead of providing funds for maintaining good roads in the Peninsula.
“Many people here were hoping that Najib would announce extra allocation for the Pan Borneo Highway connecting Sabah and Sarawak… but nothing happened.”
The Federation of Sabah Manufacturers (FSM) has also warned of a possible risk of inflation later down the road.
FSM president Wong Khen Thau said while the price uniformity programme was a move in the right direction, it does not solve the underlying problem of price inequality between West and East Malaysia.
“This is caused by the high transport costs due to the cabotage policy and inefficient transport network.
“While we welcome the setting up of 57 KR1M stores, we believe that in the long run, it would affect small-time sundry shops in the rural areas, which are normally operated by Bumiputeras,” he said.
“We hope the government would seriously look for long-term solutions,” he said.