Has education in rural schools improved so much that it warranted a cut in allocation from RM424 million in 2012 to RM98 million in 2013?
KUCHING 1/10/2012: While state Barisan Nasional leaders have described the over RM251 million federal budget announced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as “very balanced”, Sarawak opposition leaders are saying it’s “terribly horrible”.
Pointing out a shocking drop in funding for education allocation in rural areas, DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen said: “The government is setting its priorities all wrong.
“It is a total neglect for Sarawak and Sabah. The education allocation has shrunk to 20% as compared with the previous years.
“What is the rationale for education allocation for rural areas in Sarawak and Sabah where the amount was slashed from RM424 million in 2012 to only RM98 million in 2013?
“Have the rural education and rural school facilities in the two states improved so much? I don’t think so.”
Chong, who is Bandar Kuching MP, said the budget is “a big disappointment as it gives a lot of goodies to a lot of people, but it does not solve the fundamental economic problems”.
He said these economic problems have given rise to social ills, with a lot of poor people resorting to crimes in order to make ends meet.
“The budget speech is more like a political ‘ceramah’ (political talk). Nothing is mentioned about arresting corruption, clean governance, and ending cronyism.
“There is not a word about the leakages in government projects amounting to RM30 billion last year. So Najib speaks as if the government is setting up a culture of corruption and cronyism in this country.
16 years in deficit
On the budget deficit, Chong, who is also the Kota Sentosa assemblyman, noted that the budget is in its 16th year of deficit estimated to be RM43,016.99 million, assuming that there would be no more supplementary supply.
“Our deficit is still increasing bearing in mind this estimate on expenditure is always not accurate… I have seen application for supplementary supply and usually the increase is roughly 10%.
“You have a country running a deficit 16 years in a row. Any company will go bankrupt. It shows that the country is handling a very unhealthy financial management,” he said.
On projections for next year, Chong said that the revenue classification for next year is RM208,650 million and the sectors that would contribute to the increase are individuals and companies which increased by nine and seven percent respectively, while the non-tax revenue decreased.
“What does it tell you? It tells you that tax agents such as Inland Revenue Board (IRB) from next year are going to be more aggressive in looking out for more taxes from the people.
“They will target individuals and businessmen,” he warned.
Commenting on the so-called election goodies, he said: “For all these election goodies given out, we have a price to pay.
“The tax officers will go to your office and take everything and bring it back.”
Chong warned individuals and companies that the IRB would be “aggressive”.
“The price is that the tax department will go all out and become more aggressive either on justified or unjustified ground.
“They will tell you that you have to pay so much, say RM20 million. Of course, you tell them you don’t agree with the amount and then you start negotiating with them.
“This will be the likely scenario. I believe this is one of the ways the government would earn some revenue,” he added.
Debt ratio now 53%
On the government debt of RM502.4 billion, Chong said that the debt ratio to the GDP growth now has exceeded the 50% mark.
“It is now 53.7%. What happens if the ratio exceeds 55% and more? I believe two things are likely to happen. Firstly, the government will amend the law and increase the ratio to 60% in order to legalise it.
“Of course, this is a stupid way of doing it. It is just like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.
“Secondly, the government can ask statutory bodies such as EPF that have given loans to the government to waive or cancel their loans so that the debt level will go down.
“This is another possibility, and we are greatly concerned about it,” said Chong.
Meanwhile, state BN leaders, in welcoming the budget, described it as “fantastic’”as it would launch the country towards developed nation status, transforming the economy to a high level income and at the same time galvanising the people’s participation.
Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party president William Mawan Ikom said the budget was fantastic as it would set a new phase of development in the country by wooing more investments to further accelerate its economic growth.
“It is not only broad-based and people-friendly, but also it reaches out to every stratum of society and galvanise the people’s participation,” said Mawan, who is State Social Development Minister.
His colleague James Masing, the State Land Development Minister, said that it is an election budget, but with a responsible and correct focus.
“It will enhance foreign direct investment and at the same time it will focus on industrial development – big, medium and small industry.
“It will also focus on the welfare of all strata of the society including the handicapped people,” said Masing, who is also the president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak.
A leader of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and Asajaya assemblyman Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said that the budget was people-orientated.
“This is because every sphere of the society is reached and given benefits. It was meticulously prepared and the prime minister made sure all sectors are covered,” he said.