Sabah and Sarawak call for more allocation in Budget 2021

Leaders are saying the budget should focus on training nurses, improving health facilities and infrastructures in both states, among others

pic by BERNAMA

SABAH and Sarawak leaders have asked for an increase in allocation for their respective state governments in the national budget next year.

The spike in Covid-19 cases in Sabah has led to insufficient facilities for health officers to assist the public in a time where they are hit with a global health crisis.

Semporna MP Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal (picture) said the budget should focus on providing sufficient equipment and manpower in the health sector especially in rural areas hammered by the pandemic.

“At this time, the federal government can only send a few health officers from the peninsula to every district in Sabah. Due to this, some of them had contracted the virus.

“They also get little rest and are exhausted because of the limited amount of members from the health sector,” he said in his debate for the Supply Bill 2021 in Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Mohd Shafie highlighted the need for the federal government to provide facilities such as accommodation for health officers to lessen the travelling distance from their homes to hospitals or clinics that they work at.

“These facilities are given to armed forces and police, where they do not only get expensive facilities, they are also equipped with sufficient equipment.

“If the same facilities can be provided for public health officials, I am confident a lot of issues can be resolved in the long run and this would also help elevate the sector’s ability to operate,” he said.

The former Sabah chief minister also questioned the government’s allocation of RM85.5 billion to its Special Affairs Department (Jasa) as he claimed that Jasa’s role to disseminate government policies can be done by the Community Development Department (Kemas).

Funds allocated for Jasa should be channelled to areas that can improve the country’s economy, he said.

“I used to be in the Information Department and Jasa’s role can be done by Kemas. There is no need to spend RM85.5 billion on that.

“The allocation can be used to train more nurses or public health officials in the Health Ministry, to help our children who are unemployed or assist diploma holders in rural areas,” he added.

Datuk Zakaria Mohd Edris (Bersatu-Libaran) also urged the government to lessen the development economic gap between the two states and the peninsula by improving infrastructures in both states.

He said as the Indonesian government has decided to move its capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan, a developed infrastructure would have a positive impact in Sabah and Sarawak as they would be neighbours with Indonesia’s capital.

He highlighted the need for improvement in electricity, clean water supply and improved roads in the Libaran district.

Meanwhile, Larry Sng (Pakatan Harapan-Julau) said the budget tabled on Nov 6 is not fair for both Sabah and Sarawak and had asked for more allocation to tackle the pandemic and maintaining the people’s livelihood, while ensuring economic continuity.

“The development allocation for Sarawak has dropped to 6.5% of the GDP in Budget 2021 versus 7.8% in Budget 2020. Allocations for Sabah dropped to 7.4% from 9.3% previously,” he said.

Sng also called for the government to expedite its efforts to lessen the digital divide between the two states and the peninsula.

He said Sarawak has 2,041 telecommunication infrastructures that are ready to be upgraded with 4G facilities, while his constituency has six telecommunications buildings with only 2G and 3G coverage.

“I hope the government will expedite this development and make it a priority. Internet coverage is vital when we are facing a new normal,” he said in his debate.

He added that an unprecedented crisis required an unprecedented response with extraordinary measures.

The “business as usual” approach in Budget 2021 does not reflect a Covid-19 budget while the country is faced with an unprecedented crisis.

“I will only support the budget if these matters are taken into consideration,” he said.

Read our earlier report here