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Orang Asal dip below poverty line, projects ‘failing’

KOTA  KINABALU: A lawyer who heads the PKR Kudat Division in the extreme north of Sabah has expressed alarm that more and more households in Banggi, Kudat and Pitas appear to have dipped below the poverty line despite the Sabah and Federal Government reportedly pumping billions into the areas. “The question is what happened to the billions spent in these areas. The onus is on the government to explain why poverty continues to plague the people.”
It would be better to hand out the estimated RM5 billion to RM10 billion directly to the affected households, said Rahimah Majid, so that the people could start various businesses on their own. “This would create business opportunities for others as well and jobs.”
She was commenting on the status of the agropolitan project in Banggi, an integrated rubber plantation in Bengkoka Peninsula in Pitas involving 10,000 hectares and a prawn hatchery project in Kampung Eloi in Pitas. “These projects have displaced the people from their traditional economic activities relying on the sea,” lamented Rahimah. “This has forced them to the bottom of the heap again.”
She added that an ambitious government project to turn 20 coastal villages in Pitas into an aquaculture centre with at least 260 millionaires appears to be going nowhere. “There are many other enabling programmes for the Kudat people but now no one can see happy faces among them.”
“The Orang Asal in Pitas in particular have complained that not only have they no steady income even as prices have risen sharply in the market, even their lands have been taken away for projects which have failed.”
It’s even harder to make a living now as jobs are scarce, she cautioned. “It’s really tough for the single mothers in particular to keep their families going.”
Briefly, she reiterated, projects meant to raise their standard of living and uplift them out of poverty have either failed or are failing. “Tapping rubber, for example, no longer pays as prices for rubber sheets and scraps have hit rock bottom and have remained consistently there.”
“In Banggi, many of the Orang Asal there live in a sorry state in ramshackle homes with no access to clean water and electricity.”
The lawyer disclosed that PKR Kudat would organize a charity dinner in January to raise funds to help some of the most afflicted families in the Kudat parliamentary constituency covering several areas. In 2007, in Pitas alone, there were 2,400 households regarded as hardcore poor, making the district the poorest not only in Sabah but in Malaysia.

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