KOTA KINABALU: The expanding rich-poor gap among the people in Labuan is due to the current government’s system that encourages resource leakage, wastage, corruption and unbridled cronyism, claims PKR.
Labuan PKR chief Simsudin Sidek said the situation worsened when the government decided to implement the goods and services tax (GST) which caused prices of consumer goods to rise suddenly.
Simsudin said it was maddening that the government continued to claim that the country was almost free of poverty when in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, the poverty rate was still high.
In truth, he said, the government had still failed to address inequality and poverty in these states.
He said Sabahans, Sarawakians and Labuanites were marginalised although the nation had rapidly developed and, by right, every citizen should be able to enjoy the country’s wealth.
He said the current national poverty line income of RM950 (RM1,160 for Sabah and Labuan) was too low and unrealistic.
In fact, he said, the value could have been set so low to give a positive image to the BN government.
He said the number of people living in poverty was far bigger than the percentage announced by the government.
“With the high cost of living in Labuan today, I think the criterion should be set at RM2,000 to gauge the national poverty rate,” he said.
He believed the people were right in questioning the current administration for hunting tax evaders despite already increasing its tax collection by almost 100% since 2010, the year when Najib Razak became prime minister.
Simsudin said there were still many citizens, especially in Labuan, who were left out of the “so-called economic success” claimed by the government.
“Through their media, every day we are being told about their supposed economic success, alleged economic growth, strong ringgit, high foreign investment, mega projects that cost billions of ringgit, including the supposed 38 projects worth RM752 million which will be carried out in Labuan.
“Unfortunately, all these numbers and ‘successes’ cannot be translated into improvement of the people’s quality of life.
“In other words, the people don’t even enjoy these economic successes because these are confined to only a few groups of people,” he said.
Statistics, he said, had shown that Labuan, where the unemployment rate in 1984 was 7.6%, recently recorded a high 7.8% unemployment rate. This means the situation in Labuan is as bad as 33 years ago before federalisation.
Simsudin said such a situation should not befall Labuan because the island was rich in natural resources, including marine resources, oil and gas.
“Since it is already established that locals in Sabah and Labuan are struggling economically right now, I hope the BN-Umno government will avoid issuing confusing and baseless statements in their media.
“The people are already suffering, thanks to their narrow-minded racial politics.”