COMMENT: After the announcement of the 12th Malaysia Plan in September 2021, Sabahans have once again, encountered more disappointment by the recently tabled Budget 2022 last Friday 29th October 2021.
A perusal of Budget 2022 and looking at the comparison of previous Budget 2021 allocation and the actual spending are in my opinion were drawn up without any aspirations or empathy from the current Ismail Sabri Government especially in addressing the much needed Development of Sabah. Sabah will indeed probably remain as the poorest state in Malaysia for coming years despite the mega announcements made by the Finance Minister.
We are now back again to the unending debate of the special grant for Sabah under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution.
This Government had repeated what the PN Government had done in Budget 2021 in retaining the Special Grant at RM26.7 Million (the figure since 1969) despite the revision of the Special Grant Quantum during PH-Warisan as the then Federal Government.
The PH-Warisan Federal Government had in 2019 whilst facing fiscal challenges right after taking over the previous BN Led Government had revised the Special Grant to RM53.4 million for the year 2020 and thereafter the Quantum was to be upwardly revised to RM106.8 million from 2023 and thereafter to be reviewed upwards in accordance to the State of Fiscal Health of the Federal Government.
During the tabling of the 12th Malaysia Plan, it was revealed that Sabah had 8 out of the 10 poorest districts in the Federation of Malaysia and that Sabah had also recorded the highest poverty rate (25.3%) among all states in the Federation. Despite all the aforesaid, the budget 2022 stated that the “Projek Kemiskinan Semenanjung/Sabah/Sarawak” has been abolished in the Budget 2022.
We understand the government might have some new approaches to solve the poverty issues, but these new approaches might take months or years to be realized and will make suffer the long and winding road towards recovery.
I urge the Government to revise their strategy and put in effect Immediate actions or approaches to solve the poverty issues that have been cursed upon Sabah all these years and which without a once and for all solution will continue the negative impacts towards Sabah’s socio-economy and all future development. Just look at how many budgets have been tabled and announced for Sabah and yet “the budget spending’s and implementations have come to nought!
Any yearly allocated budget of the Federation of Malaysia serves as “to-do-list” in a year for each Ministry once it is announced. Hence the Allocated budget must be utilized to ensure the future development of the Federation.
We have in our perusal of the recently tabled budget discovered that there are discrepancy between the previous allocated budget amount and the actual allocation spent amount for the Federation especially for Sabah and this raises many concerns.
When we look back at the Budget for 2020, the total allocation from the Ministry of Works for the upgrade and development of roads and bridges in Sabah was supposed to be RM412 million for 2020 but the actual spending for 2020 was only RM127.81 million and for Budget 2021, RM153.52 million for 2021 was allocated to the Ministry of Works again for the upgrade and development of roads and bridges in Sabah and despite the that big announcement the estimated spending was only RM66.22 million for the year 2021 as duly stated in recently tabled Budget 2022.
The total allocation from Ministry of Education for rural areas development program in Sabah and Sarawak was supposed to be RM577 million for 2020, but the actual spending was only RM87.1 million for the same year and a total allocation of RM471.9 million for 2021, but the estimated spending was only RM239.26 million as stated in the recently tabled Budget 2022.
It is also interesting that for Budget 2020, the total allocation for rural areas development program in Sabah and Sarawak is RM912.17 million from the Budget 2022 and it would now be incumbent to the Ministry of Education to reveal if it will actually fully utilise this huge allocation to finally make right all the much needed educational infrastructure and facilities needed in Sabah rural areas to ensure that Sabahans will get par level Education Opportunity as their counterparts in Malaya.
There are more than RM1 billion differential sum between announced budget and the actual expenditures for the development of Sabah infrastructures and education in 2020 and 2021. In other words, there was lack if not unspent amount of RM1 billion funds to develop Sabah despite the huge announcements in previous budget. Basic infrastructures and education are very important to Sabah especially when the pandemic is now under control and during the rebound of the economy. We are compelled to ask why Sabah did not get the full allocation from federal government and whether this was done purposely or another failure to utilise the Budget already allocated for Sabah.
We understand the COVID-19 pandemic has had negative impacts towards the income and development of the Federation but the budget 2021 was tabled in 2020, when the pandemic had already been in existence in the Federation of Malaysia and the Federal Government would have already known the capability of the Government to support each State in the Federation before making any allocation of announcement in the Budget.
The Federal Government should explain to the people, especially to Sabahans on why there had not fully utilise the Allocation and why they impaired the promised development to Sabah.
The Federal Government need to stop misrepresenting to Sabahans with these so called “feel-good-factors” announcements. Sabahans are tired of the Government’s repetitive announcement of development for Sabah because it is obvious that Sabahans cannot feel and see any significant outcomes to help Sabahans despite the “huge” budget allocations.
It is incumbent that the Government comes out in the open with a more substantial and concrete proposal to prepare Sabah for Post-Covid economy rebound and not just announcement of huge Allocations year in and year out.