To Sarawak political leaders: No Money, Don’t Promise

The state is where the development projects are to be implemented, but the states in Malaysia don’t have the money, as most of the government money in the country is collected by the federal government. The federal government, for instance, collects the income tax, the corporate tax, the excise tax, and the GST. In contrast, the state government collects the quit rent, and for Sarawak, this is only about RM50 million per year. The local government collects the property tax, but most local authorities in Sarawak do not have many taxable properties.

The federal government also gets the bulk of the oil and gas money, which was about RM66 billion for the year 2015. In comparison, in the same year, Sarawak’s oil and gas money was just slightly above half a billion ringgits.

For its limited income, does this imply that Sarawak will always have to depend on the federal money for its development projects and industrial activities.

Sarawak is considered by the BN as its fixed-deposit state. Will it get more development money as a result?

For the last 3 decades, in an effort to achieve a developed nation status, the government’s priority has always been on urban and city development. Kuala Lumpur, for example, is to be turned into a mega city or a metropolitan centre of the world under the Greater KL concept, and the amount of money to be used to achieve this aim is RM60 billion.

Sarawak is a rural state, and it is lagging way behind the already advanced and urbanised Semenanjung Malaysia. Will Semenanjung Malaysia wait for Sarawak before it moves further forward? Will Malaysia try to achieve  the developed nation status with or without Sarawak’s participation?  

Electricity, water, and housing come under the purview of the state power. But Sarawak doesn’t even have the money for these projects. In order to be able to provide these facilities to its people, it has to borrow money from the federal government. It now owes the federal government RM2.5 billion. Is this the correct way forward to carry out the development initiatives in the state? Is not the role of the government is to develop the country?

In 2010, in one longhouse in Lachau, Sri Aman, the Prime Minsiter announced that RM1.2 billion would be spent in Sarawak for the Rural Electricity Scheme. The Prime Minister also said that 92% of the households in Sarawak would enjoy electricity and treated water supply by the year 2012.

Sarawakians thought that these projects were to be financed by the federal government. Is it right for federal leaders to announce the projects when they know that Sarawakians are to pay for the cost of implementing them?

It is election time again in Sarawak. As in the previous elections, Sarawakians once more are hoping that the Prime Minister and his ministers announce many development projects for the state.

But then, with more project announcements, will Sarawak become more indebted to the federal government.

Sarawak should ask for grants, not loans from the federal government. Sarawak should request for money, not projects. As each state has its own peculiar characteristics, it therefore should also be allowed to decide the types of projects to be implemented, where, when, how, and for what reasons. This policy will fit in well with Adenan’s idea of power-sharing in the country.

If Sarawak asked for the development projects, they might never come at all, as those demands might not get into the institutional agenda of the federal government. There are many examples of government promises and pledges in Sarawak that have not been met.

The SMK Tellian in Mukah, for example, is yet to be built 12 years after the government has promised to do so. The Sri Aman hospital is another example. The government also seemed to forget its promise to build a clinic in Hulu Belaga until the Penan showed their anger about the whole issue in 2013 by staging a demonstration.

Promises and pledges are easy to make, and most politicians like to do them in order to look good in the eyes of the people, and to be seen to be fighting for their course. The people will always remember the promises made by the government, and they don’t care whether it has the money to implement them or not. – SARAWAKVOICE.COM