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EPU re-affirms chronic poverty in Sabah

 | November 13, 2013

Sabah STAR chief Jeffrey Kitingan pointed out that a one-off payment of RM820.64 million could resolve the problem of the 8,457 and 1,801 households in Sabah and Sarawak.

KOTA KINABALU: Despite its vast resources and federal government backing, the Sabah government appears to be struggling to reduce poverty in the state.

Sabah STAR chairman Jeffrey Kitingan said figures released by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the PM’s Department for the various types of poverty in Sabah, Sarawak and the nation speak for themselves and is a slap in the face of the state government.

The rosy picture painted by the state Barisan Nasional government headed by Chief Minister Musa Aman on the eradication of poverty in Sabah clearly contradicts that of the EPU, he said.

According to EPU figures, Sabah had the lion’s share of abject poor households in the nation at 53.5% while Sarawak accounted for 11.4%. In the poor household category, Sabah had 39.3% while Sarawak had 11.7%.

“Whatever the cut-off points in the definition of ‘abject poor’ and ‘poor’ categories and the number of households involved, the percentages reveal glaring failures of the federal and Sabah governments in resolving the poverty problems in Sabah.

“The efforts of the Sabah government in reducing poverty levels in Sabah are poor and miserable compared to the efforts of the Sarawak government, if the numbers of the Prime Minister’s Department are relied upon.

“Yet, the Sabah government has been boasting that they have done a good job in reducing poverty in Sabah,” he noted.

The state assembly representative for the rural seat of Bingkor in the Keningau parliamentary constituency believes the EPU figures may in fact be five to 10 times less than the reality.

“In truth, in the villages and even in urban and suburban areas of Sabah, one only need to look … it will not be surprising that there are more than 8,457 abject poor households and 42,400 poor households,” he said.

Only RM820mil needed

Kitingan said it was an irony that Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest in Malaysia despite being the two biggest oil and gas producers who contributed about RM18 billion and RM45 billion respectively to Petronas and the federal government last year.

Their 5% share of the take under an oil and gas wealth sharing contract signed in 1976 amounted to about RM941 million for Sabah and RM2.37 billion for Sarawak.

Kitingan pointed out that a one-off payment of RM820.64 million could resolve the problem of the 8,457 and 1,801 households in Sabah and Sarawak.

This figure is derived, he said, by giving each household the equivalent of RM80,000 comprising a house costing RM40,000 and another RM40,000 in special grant to develop their own 15-acre plot of land.

“Assuming a RM300 monthly return on each acre of their agriculture, they will be each getting RM4,500 per month in household income, higher than most university graduates’ income.

“What is RM820 million compared to the RM63 billion of oil and gas stolen annually from Sabah and Sarawak?” he asked.

The state government, he said, should seek an immediate increase of the oil payment from 5% to 20% from the federal government to help solve the poverty problems of the 8,457 and 42,400 households stated by the EPU.

Along with the additional revenue of nearly RM3 billion based on the figures given by the Sabah government for last year, the state coffers will be further swelled with the return of the 40% net revenue collected by the federal government from Sabah as provided under the Tenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution, he said.

“This 20% is not wishful thinking as it has even been declared by the Chief Minister that the government will be seeking a review of the oil payment. Unless of course, this is an empty promise and election gimmick given during the run-up the GE-13,” Kitingan said.


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