Shafie presents surplus budget for Sabah

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal showing a copy of the Sabah’s Budget 2019 which focuses on human resources and the education sector, among others. With him is Deputy Chief Minister Madius Tangau. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal today announced a surplus budget, the fifth in a row for the state, which sees increased allocations particularly in the human resources and education sectors.

“The main agenda of the current government is to strengthen revenue collection and income. With an increase in revenue, the goal to spur development most likely will be achieved in a short period of time,” he told the Sabah state legislative assembly today.

He also pointed out that more revenue could be collected from new sources and requested the cooperation of revenue collectors to increase their efforts in achieving the target set in the budget.

Themed “Driving growth for the people”, the budget proposed a total expenditure of RM4.16 billion for the year 2019, giving it a surplus of RM105.32 million from its total revenue. This is an increase from last year’s surplus of RM64.89 million.

Expecting to collect RM4.27 billion next year, Shafie said Sabah would continue to rely on the cash payment from Petronas as it formed more than 37.5% of the total revenue with a projected collection of RM1.6 billion.

In terms of expenditure, Shafie said the government is expecting an increase in spending by 1.35% but pointed out that a lesser amount would be spent on emoluments due to retirements of civil servants and recruitment of new officers and staff at the lower payroll category.

Recurring expenditure is proposed at RM1.37 billion, a slight increase compared to last year’s amount while special expenditure is proposed at RM2.05 billion, also an increase from last year’s total.

Among the highlights of the special expenditure is an allocation of RM52 million for scholarships, bursaries and financial assistance for students. This is an increase from the RM37 million allocated previously.

The special allocation also includes an RM3 million increase in the allocation for missionaries and private schools, bringing the total funding to RM15 million.

“To develop Sabah with greater excellence, we need to have passion and willingness to invest in order to produce human capital that is knowledgeable, highly skilled with positive and high moral values.

“In this regard, the government desires an intellectually, physically, and spiritually balanced human capital based on our faith in God,” Shafie said in his budget speech.

More than a quarter of the budget, or some RM1.25 billion, goes to the development of the state’s infrastructure including roads, bridges and public transportation system while productive sectors such as agriculture, tourism and industrial sectors are allocated a total of RM926.73 million to boost economic growth.

Shafie acknowledged that Sabah’s poverty rate had decreased to just 2.9% but pointed out that it still ranked as the third highest in the country, with a total of 73,754 poor people compared to Kelantan (157,845) and Sarawak (138,006).

“The government aspires to reduce the poverty rate in Sabah to less than 1.0% by year 2020. Thus, the government is committed and will strive to eradicate poverty,” he said.

For this, the budget allocates RM309.73 million to implement various programmes for income generation and poverty eradication for the targeted group.

Shafie said the Sabah economy grew at a rate of 8.2% last year to reach RM79.9 billion and the rate has proven to be higher than the national growth rate of 5.9%.

Even Sabah’s economic performance in 2017, he said, had improved compared to the previous years as the state’s economy is now ranked the fifth largest among all the states in Malaysia.

The largest contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) last year was the service sector, contributing 39.9%, followed by mining and agriculture.

Shafie said the unemployment rate, however, had increased by 0.2% to 5.6% last year and blamed it on job seekers’ choosy attitude, mismatch of qualifications and skills.

As part of the government’s effort to increase the quality of its service, Shafie said the government would provide RM9.56 million in scholarships to civil servants who wished to pursue further studies or attend short courses at overseas prestigious institutions such as the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford in England as well as Harvard University in the US.

He also announced an RM500 special payment to all state civil servants which will be made available next month.

“Overall, the Budget 2019 is one of the important instruments to implement redressal measures so that agencies that provide critical services will be more efficient, productive and benefit the people.

“This practice will open up a new chapter in line with the commitment of the current government to adopt a management culture that is clean, efficient and has integrity,” he said.