Budget ‘17: Rich In Natural Resources, East Malaysians Remain Poor – Shafie

Television screen grab of Shafie Apdal debating the 2017 Budget in Parliament on Tuesday.
Television screen grab of Shafie Apdal debating the 2017 Budget in Parliament on Tuesday.

KOTA KINABALU – The imbalance in development between Sabah and Sarawak with the Peninsula, has resulted in East Malaysians remaining poor despite being rich in natural resources such as oil and palm oil.

Semporna lawmaker, Dato’ Seri Haji Shafie Apdal said there was a lot of oil palm plantations in Sabah, but the downstream production was in Peninsula.

He said Sabah also produced the most gas, but it was shipped off elsewhere.

“That is why a lot of youths from Sabah and Sarawak come to Peninsula to work,” Shafie said when debating Budget 2017 at the Dewan Rakyat in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

“People in Sabah and Sarawak are not asking for (billion-rinngit) railroads. All we want is a (good) road for us to use.”

How to ensure unity when there is no balance and equality in the budget

He described the so-called Pan Borneo Highway as just a ruse by the federal government, as many sections of the highway had already been built, citing the Tawau-Semporna segment.

The former Umno vice president and Cabinet minister lamented that major development expenditure continues to be focused on Klang Valley, while infrastructure projects in Sabah and Sarawak continues to lag behind.

“This budget was branded as a budget for unity. But how to ensure unity when there is no balance and equality in the budget?” Shafie asked.

He went on to say that lawlessness may grip the country if the economy is mismanaged.

Shafie who now heads his own party, Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) highlighted how Sabah and Sarawak were not benefiting from the states’ wealth in natural resources.

He said this is because there were a lot of apple polishers managing the state’s wealth.

On security in the east coast, the lawmaker said he was informed that there were times when there was no funds to purchase fuel for the patrol boats.

People blame me now because I am with the Opposition, so this is what they do

He also took a swipe at those who accused him of being involved in water supply projects in Sabah, which are at the centre of a massive corruption, power abuse and money laundering probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“People accused me of being involved in the scandal. I do not know who they are (Sabah Water Department officials), let alone met them.

“People blame me now because I am with the Opposition, so this is what they do,” he added.

Shafie added that poverty was still a major issue in Sabah despite the state government saying it had carried out poverty-eradication projects.

“If you enter rural Sabah, you still see poor fishermen, some of them can’t even afford to buy petrol for their small boats,” he added.

Why the need to spend so much money in allocations despite a slowing economy

He also touched on national issues, including the controversial 1MDB, questioning the number of jobs the government investment arm has generated, suggesting sarcastically that only Arul Kanda Kandasamy, its CEO, was gainfully employed.

He went on to compare the state investment arm with Proton, claiming that despite the national car company having recorded losses, many Malaysians were still employed there.

Shafie also questioned the need to spend so much money in budget allocations despite a slowing economy.

He said the government should be lowering their expenditure and spending money where it was necessary

Prime Minister Najib Razak on Oct 21 announced that Budget 2017 will cost the government RM260.8 billion – 3.4 per cent higher than the revised Budget 2016.

“Our national debt has tripled since 2009, by RM250 billion. The household debt has reached RM800 billion. This is very worrying,” Shafie added.