Why is Sabah five times poorer than other non-oil producing states when it is rich in natural resources?
TAWAU August 2, 2012: A Sabah MP is calling for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look into the poverty levels, which, according to the Malaysia Statistics Department, had increased in the last five years.
Tawau MP Chua Soon Bui said the RCI was needed to get to the bottom of the problem.
She made the request when commenting on the Malaysia Statistics Department’s recent disclosure that Sabah is still the poorest state in Malaysia, with a poverty rate of 19.7% in 2009-2010, an increase of 0.2% from 2007.
The survey of household income and basic amenities was conducted on 45,805 families nationwide from April 2009 to March 2010, revealing for the first time an increased poverty rate after the economic turmoil since 1999.
Chua said that both the federal and the state governments owed the people of Sabah an explanation on why Sabah remained the poorest state in Malaysia despite being endowed with rich natural resources, including oil and gas as well as being the beneficiary of large federal allocations every year.
“Another insult is the poverty rate for Perlis. This state with the second highest level of poverty has recorded only 6%, while the third and fourth poorest states, Sarawak and Kedah, are only at 5.3%,” she said.
She wanted to know the rationale behind such a huge difference in the poverty rate of 14.7% between Sabah and Perlis. This, she said, was many times more when compared to the other Peninsular Malaysia states.
The national poverty rate is 3.8%, which showed Sabah is five times poorer than the other states.
“The government is answerable to the people of Sabah. Why is Sabah even poorer than the other non-oil and gas-producing states? Where has all its riches and money gone to after 49 years under the Barisan Nasional rule?” she asked.
Chua said the Malaysia Statistics Department’s revelation clearly showed that both the state government and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had acted irresponsibly by covering up “such a depressing and humiliating fact”.
She said they lied to the people of Sabah that the state had successfully reduced its poverty levels as proclaimed by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in February this year during his working visit there.
Chua, who is also a vice-president of the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), said that despite being an equal partner in the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the people of Sabah continued to be marginalised.
She said the government had failed to address the underlying cause of the high cost of living and doing business in Sabah, the poor infrastructure and the presence of a massive number of illegal immigrants in the state.
The goverment, she said, owes an explanation on why its poverty eradication programme had failed despite some RM112 billion worth of investments being poured into Sabah since 2008 along with the injection of annual federal grants.
“The people of Sabah, despite being the poorest, continue to bear the extra burden of higher prices of goods and higher inflation rate, higher unemployment, higher school dropouts, as compared to the people in Peninsular Malaysia,” she said.
Chua said only an RCI could probe into the causes of these failures, adding that Barisan Nasional- led federal and state governments should stop ignoring the sufferings of Sabahans.