Sabah, Sarawak should get RM3b more in Budget 2021 for development, DAP MPs tell Putrajaya

Ida Lim
·3-min read
Commercial buildings stand in the central business district of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Commercial buildings stand in the central business district of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah September 23, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Opposition lawmakers today mooted a dedicated fund of RM3 billion for Sabah and Sarawak to develop the two Borneo states in Budget 2021, which is scheduled for voting this Thursday.

The MPs from DAP pointed out that the development allocation for the two states remained unchanged from last year’s despite the monumental increase for this year’s Budget to RM322.5 billion — the largest tabled to date.

The MPs argued that the larger allocation was needed as percentage-wise, the share of the development budget for their two home states for 2021 had shrunk overall, claiming Sabah and Sarawak actually lose out about RM3 billion worth in development funds.

In a joint statement comparing Budget 2021 to Budget 2020, Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen and Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin pointed out large differences in the development expenditure for both Borneo states.

Chong is Sarawak DAP chief while Chan is Sabah DAP secretary.

They noted that in Budget 2020, the development budget totalled RM56 billion. Of this, about 46 per cent or RM25.9 billion, was for interstate spending by federal government agencies nationwide such as the armed forces, police and hospitals. Another RM30.1 billion was allocated for state-specific development.

Out of the RM30.1 billion specifically allocated for the development of all states, RM9.6 billion or about 31 per cent were given for the development of Sabah and Sarawak, they said.

In contrast, they noted that in Budget 2021, the total development budget saw a RM13 billion increase to RM69 billion from the RM56 billion in Budget 2020.

However, Chong and Chan claimed the development allocation for Sabah and Sarawak is “stagnant” at RM9.6 billion under Budget 2021.

“Percentage wise, clearly there is a dilution of Sabah and Sarawak’s development expenditure allocation in Budget 2021.

“The proportion of development expenditure specific for Sabah and Sarawak out of the total development expenditure has dropped from 17.14 per cent in Budget 2020 to 13.91 per cent in Budget 2021.

“To remedy this shortfall, we would like to propose that an additional RM3 billion of development expenditure be allocated to Sabah and Sarawak,” they said.

Chong will table a motion under Standing Order 30 of the Dewan Rakyat for an amendment of the finance minister’s motion on Budget 2021.

The proposed amendment is increased the overall development expenditure in Budget 2021 from RM69 billion to RM72 billion.

Chong’s planned motion also seeks to have the government create a new item in the federal estimated expenditure 2021, by introducing the item of development expenditure under the Prime Minister’s Department for the ministerial portfolio of Sabah and Sarawak affairs as “98000 – Development Projects in Sabah and Sarawak” and for the additional RM3 billion to be allocated to this item.

In short, Chong wants the government to increase its current development expenditure budget for 2021 by RM3 billion, and to have this RM3 billion placed directly for the development of Sabah and Sarawak.

Chan will be the seconder of Chong’s motion.

“Without this Amendment Motion, the Minister for Sabah and Sarawak Affairs under the Prime Minister’s Department will only be a lame duck ministry with zero development expenditure allocation.

“It is thus pertinent that this important portfolio in Cabinet must be allocated sufficient development expenditure allocation.

“Therefore, we call upon all MPs from Sabah and Sarawak to support the amendment motion by Chong and not be shackled down by the federal government of the day,” the duo concluded.

The portfolio of Sabah and Sarawak affairs is currently under minister in the prime minister’s department Datuk Seri Maximus Johnity Ongkili, while Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib is the deputy minister for this portfolio.

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