KUALA LUMPUR: Budget 2023, scheduled to be tabled this Friday (Oct 7), is expected to continue providing large allocations to Sabah and Sarawak to implement development projects, especially on infrastructure and education in the interiors of the two states.
Under the Budget 2022, as much as RM5.16bil was allocated to Sabah and RM4.67bil to Sarawak as development expenditure - an increase of RM104mil for Sabah and RM158mil for Sarawak from the previous year’s budget.
Lecturer at the Sabah campus of Universiti Teknologi Mara's (UiTM) Management and Business Faculty (Economics) Herniza Roxanne Marcus said the large allocations are important because there are still many rural areas in the two states that are not yet equipped with basic infrastructure such as good road networks, as well as clean water and electricity supplies which are among the main components for progress.
Nevertheless, Herniza said it was understandable that infrastructure development in some areas in Sabah such as the Tongod district, which covers an area of more than 10,000 sq km, would take a long time to be implemented due to the geographical nature and vastness of the area.
"However, with an organised and effective focus and development planning, I believe we can take Tongod out of Sabah’s poorest districts list because more employment and entrepreneurship opportunities can be provided to develop the district,” she told Bernama.
In order to achieve that, Herniza also expressed hope that the state government can cooperate with the federal government in channelling accurate information, especially on poverty data, so that the needs of the population can be pinpointed.
She also said that the development of internet broadband networks needs to be emphasised in addition to infrastructure because it has been proven that the telecommunications facility is a driving force for various sectors, especially education and tourism.
"Education is the heartbeat of a knowledgeable society, so the importance of prioritising the basic needs of the internet for education must be given special attention to enable this sector to progress in line with technological development, especially in the teaching and learning process," she said.
On tourism, Herniza said it was one of the sectors in the two states most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and to revive it, the government needs to make investments to ensure that tourism infrastructure and facilities are at a satisfactory level to receive visitors.
Meanwhile, sociopolitical analyst Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi from Universiti Malaya also expressed hope that the government can come up with a specific mechanism for Sabah and Sarawak to deal with the rising costs of living.
He said among the mechanisms that can be considered was increasing business development grants for entrepreneurs through the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) and channelling subsidy assistance in a targeted manner to the B40 group, without marginalising the middle-income group who also needs government support.
"Internet connectivity also needs to be expanded and simplified because it is now a fundamental need, more so when Sabah and Sarawak aim to achieve the status of developed states with market power in the digital economy.
"So, as a whole, the federal government needs to double the budget (allocations) for them, only then will their support have a meaningful impact,” he said. - Bernama