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STAR: nothing new in 2012 budget except for election goodies

“There is nothing new about the 2013 State Budget except for a few election goodies” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, on the so-called record RM4,088 billion 2013 Budget.

The amount is more or less similar to the 2012 Budget of RM4.048 billion.  A RM40 million increase is less than 1% and insignificant. Obviously, due to the impending general elections, the state civil servants are the main beneficiaries of the election goodies.
The civil servants certainly do deserve the bonus for their untiring efforts in working with the government of the day and should not be made sub-servient or indebted to their political masters, who hold position temporarily until the next elections.

Government made to look good due to lucky market conditions

The government was lucky and fortunate to have a good and steady international market condition that resulted in good prices for oil and oil palm which accounted for 70% of our state revenue and resulted in record revenue collections for 2010 and 2011.

If the international market conditions were to change negatively, Sabah would be in trouble because the State government has not done anything to broaden the revenue base of Sabah.   For instance, manufacturing activities have remain stagnant and account for less than 10% of the Sabah economy, and catering mostly for the domestic market with insignificant exports except for round logs, sawn timber and plywood.

The liberalization of round logs exports have caused a grave shortfall in raw material supplies for the timber industry where the Sabah Timber Industry Association has made many appeals to the government to review the policy and cut down drastically, if not totally ban, exports of round logs.  In Europe today, you will find SelanganBatu furniture exported by Vietnam and India manufacturers where no SelanganBatu trees are found as it is only indigenous to and found in Borneo.

Little Investments are non-oil related

Little has been done to assist domestic manufacturing concerns grow and the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park remains mostly empty plots, clearly proves it.

High investment figures are boasted by the government but they mean little to the economy and the man in the street as most of the investments are oil-related from Petronas  like the SAMUR Project in Sipitang and or the oil and gas industry to tap new oil fields with little spin-offs for the local economy.   Even the construction contracts are given to outsiders with little for the local Sabah oil and gas contractors.

If the oil runs dry or there are serious production output problems and a glut of oil palm due to record yields in Indonesia resulting in low world palm oil prices, the economy in Sabah will be in serious trouble.   A potential time-bomb is already ticking with world crude palm oil (CPO) prices hovering around RM2,200 per ton currently compared to highs of RM3,400 per ton in 2010 and 2011.

Poverty Problems and Land Problems Not Addressed

The State government also didn’t address or offer long-term solutions to the abject poverty problems in Sabah nor the special problems of native rights to land and native land titles and problems.   The natives remain marginalized and ignored in the 2013 Budget.

No provisions were allocated to solve the numerous land disputes and native lands issues where companies remain the preferred applicants, not the locals.

Unusual Item for Election Purposes?

Curiously, there is an unusual item of expenditure amounting to RM23.6 million that is not included under any of the Ministerial portfolios.

The government must explain this unusual item as there is already an item called “contingency” where RM50 million has been allocated.   Is this RM23.6 million to be used for election purposes and to help Umno/BN during the forthcoming 13th general elections?

No Confidence in Securing Increase of 5% Oil Cash Payment

Last month, the Chief Minister confidently announced that the State government will discuss a review and increase of the current 5% oil cash payment following the announcement by the Chief Minister to do so.

It has to be remembered that the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister are from the same BN dominant partner, Umno, and both of them as well as many of the Sabah BN leaders have been saying, no boasting in fact, that the federal-state relations are very good.

Yet, in the 2013 Budget, there is no mention of any potential for increase of the 5% oil cash payment. The announcement for a review may be just an election gimmick and certainly the Budget shows that the government has no confidence of securing any increase of the oil payment.

Given such election gimmick and non-confidence, the people of Sabah including the civil servants should consider seriously and take every action to vote out the present Umno/BN government as it is clearly shown that they cannot be fighters nor protectors of Sabah’s rights and interests.

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