KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be the true litmus test of the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 policy, in terms of taking Malaysians out of poverty.
State Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe said the state remained one of poorest in the country despite being a major contributor to the nation’s oil and gas supply.
He said the aim of eliminating the income gap between classes and regions and disparity in the supply chain by 2030 was a realistic vision, given its 10-year duration.
Phoong said the issues and challenges facing Sabah in its effort to become a developed state could be tackled if the federal government honoured the spirit of federalism and had decentralised decision-making power.
“As things stand, income and corporate taxes are centralised. It goes back to the federal government and only then distributed to states. This should not be.
“In Australia, for example, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) revenue is distributed equally between the state and the federation,” he said.
Phoong said the channelling of half of the tourism tax revenue to individual states by the federal government was a good start.
“This is one of the ways in which states are being given autonomy to develop themselves.”
He said the Pakatan Harapan manifesto laid out seven chapters on the equitable allocation of resources for Sabah and Sarawak, adding the long-term goal to reinstate new federalism, which is in line with Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.
“On this note, I must remind all that this is something that the previous government under Barisan Nasional had failed us and had, over the past 60 years, place Sabah in a perpetual, systematically discriminative state.
“Economic growth and development must go hand in hand with structural reforms and the undoing of the old mindset and habits of the civil service.
“Only with a more transparent government and systems will people in power, like me, be held accountable for our office and our performances.”
Universiti Malaysia Sabah economist Professor Datuk Kasim Md Mansur said providing infrastructure in Sabah was the “passport” to the state’s economic growth.
Sabah, he said, was rich in natural resources ranging from oil and gas, palm oil and other agricultural and tourism products that could contribute to the gross national income.
“The federal government has to allocate more funds, especially in building infrastructure and improve connectivity in the interior, such as Tenom, Keningau, Kemabong, Pitas and Kota Marudu, which have an abundance of natural resources.
“When there are better road and transportation systems, it will attract more foreign direct investment that can create more jobs.”
However, he said that while there were countries keen on investing massively on infrastructures and large-scale businesses here, Sabah had to ensure both parties were going to be active players and achieve win-win situations.
This view was shared by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing, who said the lack of infrastructure in Sarawak, particularly in rural areas, was the main reason the country’s largest state was left behind.
He said although the state was large and rich in resources, poor infrastructure had slowed its economic development.
“Some villages and longhouses in remote areas cut off from cities and towns as there is no road connectivity, while others don’t have access to basic amenities.
“One of the most effective ways to tackle poverty is to create accessibility to areas where poverty exists. How can we help them if we couldn’t even reach them?
“Our oil and gas have been benefiting other states. It is time the federal government prioritises infrastructure development in Sarawak, which can resolve other issues, such as poverty and the income gap.”