KOTA KINABALU: Barisan Nasional (BN) will offer more power and autonomy to state governments through a “new deal for the people” if it manages to wrest power from Pakatan Harapan (PH) in the next general election, former Umno minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan said today.
He said the former ruling coalition wanted to improve the present federalism concept, which he described as possessing too much power.
He said under BN and Umno’s improved federalism concept, the federal government would offload certain critical responsibilities from its plate to the state governments.
He voiced confidence that the state governments would welcome the opportunity to decide for themselves on issues such as development and taxation as they do not have much say on these matters at the moment.
“The current federalist system in Malaysia needs to be tweaked to empower the state governments. This will be more meaningful for the states.
“I find that too much power and autonomy lies with the federal government under the system now,” Rahman told FMT.
Using development in Sabah as an example, he said the central government would eventually decide what sort of development projects would take place despite input from the state government.
The entire planning is undertaken by the federal government, even the monitoring process after the projects are completed, he added.
“I was the minister for the Economic Planning Unit before but at the end of the day, the decisions were made by Putrajaya,” said the former Kota Belud MP, who hails from Sabah’s Tuaran district.
“For example, I wanted a bridge in my area previously, but Putrajaya decided to build it somewhere else. So having the state government handle these matters will be more effective as they know what’s needed by their people.”
Rahman said the Cabinet system in Sabah, for example, could greatly complement the federal system but that it was under-utilised as a result of the current federal set-up.
“You have ministers looking after agriculture and rural development, for instance, but there is much duplication of work by the state and central governments due to the present system.
“Even the federal government has complained about this. So why not utilise this? Just give the funds to the state governments and let them decide how to use the money (for development), how and what to plan, and then monitor later.”
He said overlapping of work is frequent at department levels as well as with many agencies under the federal watch, including public services. “It’s just too burdensome for the federal government,” he added.
“We (BN-Umno) are offering more power and autonomy to state governments on development planning and decision making, taxation, and fairer budgets for development and transformation of local governments, among others.”
He said the transformation of local governments is also painfully slow, adding that there had been progress at federal and state government levels but that the local government system has not been touched since independence.
“We also have an idea on how to make local governments more accountable, effective and transparent.
“We will articulate this as time goes by. As the rebuilding process takes place, Sabah Umno will have its own convention and forums to relay this new deal to the people of Malaysia.”