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EPU Report Re-Affirms Chronic Poverty in Sabah – Dr. Jeffrey

Kota Kinabalu: “The recent disclosures of the poverty and abject poverty figures for Sabah, Sarawak and the nation by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the PM’s Department clearly contradicts the rosy picture painted by the Sabah government on the alleviation of poverty in Sabah" said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, commenting on the poverty levels in Sabah.

According to EPU figures, Sabah had 53.5% of the abject poor households in the nation while Sarawak accounted for 11.4%.   In the poor household category, Sabah had 39.3% while Sarawak had 11.7%.  

No. Description Sabah Sarawak Peninsula National
1 No. of abject poor households 8,457 (53.5%) 1,801 (11.4%) 5,547 (35.1%) 15,805 (100%)
2 No. of poor households 42,400 (39.3%) 12,600 (11.7%) 53,000 (49.0%) 108,000 (100%)

Whatever the cut-off points in the definition of abject poor and poor categories and the number of households involved, the percentages reveal glaring failures of the federal and Sabah governments in resolving the poverty problems in Sabah.   

The efforts of the Sabah government in reducing poverty levels in Sabah are poor and miserable compared to the efforts of the Sarawak government, if the numbers of the Prime Minister’s Department are relied upon. Yet, the Sabah government has been boasting that they have done a good job in reducing poverty in Sabah.

In truth, in the villages and even in urban and suburban areas of Sabah, one only need to see and ask casually of the poverty levels and it will not be surprising that there are more than 8,457 abject poor households and 42,400 poor households.    The real numbers will probably be 5 to 10 times more.

The irony of it all that while Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest in Malaysia, they are the two (2) biggest oil and gas producers and contributed about RM18 billion and RM45 billion respectively to Petronas and the federal government in 2012.   On their part, Sabah only received about RM941 million and Sarawak RM2.37 billion for their 5% share.

As a figurative comparison to totally resolve the 8,457 and 1,801 households in Sabah and Sarawak, it will only cost a one-off sum of RM820.64 million.   This is derived by giving each household the equivalent of RM80,000 comprising a house costing RM40,000 and another RM40,000 in special agricultural grant to develop their own 15 acres plot of land.   Assuming a RM300 monthly return on each acre of their agriculture, they will be each getting RM4,500 per month in household income, higher than most university graduates’ income.    

What is RM820 million compared to the RM63 billion of oil and gas “stolen” annually from Sabah and Sarawak?

On a more serious note, the Sabah government should take immediate steps look into and help solve the poverty problems of these 8,457 and 42,400 households.

One of the most immediate steps that can be taken by the Sabah government is to seek an immediate increase of the oil payment from 5% to 20% from Petronas and the federal government which will bring Sabah an additional revenue of RM2,823.75 billion based on 2012 figures given by the Sabah government.

This 20% is not wishful thinking as it has even been declared by the Chief Minister that the government will be seeking a review of the oil payment.   Unless of course, this is an empty promise and election gimmick given during the run-up the GE-13.

And the Sabah coffers will be further increased with return of the 40% net revenue collected by the federal government from Sabah as provided under the Tenth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

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