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Prioritize Development and Build Pan Borneo Highway in Full

Kota Kinabalu: “Sabah and Sarawak BN leaders must speak up and tell the federal government to re-assess its development priorities for Malaysia and in particular for Sabah and Sarawak.  What has happened for the past 10 Malaysian Plans must change if Malaysia is to survive for the next 50 years?” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief noting that the Chief Minister of Sarawak has called for prioritizing development in Sarawak while Sabah leaders have remained muted.

The clarification by the federal Works Minister, who hails from Sarawak, that only 95 overtaking lanes will be built for the Pan Borneo Highway now scheduled for completion in 2022 at the estimated costs of RM14.5 billion is not acceptable.  

It only mean that the full Pan Borneo Highway, originally budgeted at RM27 billion and scheduled for completion in 2025 will not be built but only a scaled-down version costing RM14.5 billion.   

It also mean that come 2022, a lengthy 59 years after the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak will still not have a complete dual carriageway, only roads with overtaking lanes.   If the federal government and the federal leaders think that this standard of road infrastructure is an acceptable level of development for Sabah and Sarawak in 2022, they should have their heads examined.

What a big letdown in so far as promised development for Sabah and Sarawak for agreeing to form Malaysia?

It also mean that the budget of RM14.5 billion to be spent over 8 years on the Pan Borneo Highway only amount to RM1.81 billion a year.

To rub salt into the wound, a glance at Budget 2015 will show that RM50.5 billion is earmarked for development expenditure.  Of this sum, RM16.1 billion will be spent on 4 highway projects and RM32 billion for 2 new MRT lines, all in Malaya.   That RM16.1 billion alone for 2015 is bigger than the Pan Borneo Highway budget over 8 years.

On the other side of the budget equation, billions upon billions are siphoned from Sabah and Sarawak.  Sarawak contributes more than RM55 billion annually in oil and gas revenue to Petronas and the federal government with Sabah another RM28 billion yearly.   International oil companies operating in Sabah and Sarawak contribute billions in taxes to the federal government.

Billions are collected as federal income tax from Sabah and Sarawak.   Starting 1st April this year, Sabah and Sarawak consumers will be paying their share of the 6% GST.    Sabah is the world’s third biggest palm oil producer in the world, after Indonesia and Malaysia (minus Sabah) contributing about 35% of Malaysia’s palm oil revenue of RM73 billion a year.

Forty percent (40%) of the net revenue derived from Sabah and Sarawak are supposed to be returned respectively under the 10th Schedule of the Federal Constitution but not a single sen is returned.

There is no reason to deny Sabah and Sarawak’s fair share of development.

At a different level, Malacca is allocated RM500 million in 2015 to construct several roads as well as two flyovers to address traffic congestion in the state.  At the same time, Sabah’s request for funds to build 6 flyovers in Kota Kinabalu to reduce the traffic jams has met with a reply of no allocations.   Incidentally, the whole of Sabah has only 5 flyovers, all in Kota Kinabalu, and traffic is reduced to a crawl during peak hours.

The insincerity of the PM and the federal government in not allocating and prioritizing the Pan Borneo Highway and other road construction only reinforces the fact that the federal government treat Sabah and Sarawak as colonies and do not bother about the promises of development given at the formation of Malaysia.

“Why the double standards with regards to development in Sabah and Sarawak?” and

“When will the federal government act on their promises and start to prioritize development in Sabah and Sarawak?” asked Dr. Jeffrey. 

Now that the CM of Sarawak has made his stand, the Sabah government should make a similar stand and demand the federal government prioritize development in Sabah and demand that the full Pan Borneo Highway be built with funds sent to the Sabah government for implementation by local contractors.

If the federal government still refuse to prioritize such development, not only there is no reason for Sabah and Sarawak to continue contributing their oil and other revenues to the federal government, there is no reason for Sabah and Sarawak to remain in Malaysia for its resources to be raped and pillaged.

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