Abang Jo mulls ways to improve Sarawakians’ social mobility

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Jan 16: Shaping policies to improve social mobility of Sarawakians is high on the agenda of Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s administration.

The chief minister said the state would continue to source for income and implement programmes to spur economic growth to ensure adequate funds in supporting its development agenda to raise social security and living standards.

He cited the five per cent sales tax imposed on petroleum and petroleum products for the export market this year as a policy that had significantly benefitted the state’s revenue.

Funds derived from such sources would enable the state to empower its social development agenda.

“When we introduced the five per cent sales tax on petroleum products, it has always been our plan to share the income with the people.

“This is actually the first time we manage to get substantial revenue from oil and gas. This will provide funds to help us shape social policies that benefit the people,” Abang Johari said at the Endowment Fund Sarawak (EFS) presentation ceremony here today.

“Getting extra income from oil gas, we are merely exercising our rights within the (federal) constitution,” he pointed out.

Abang Johari said he had grown tired arguing with Putrajaya over the oil and gas royalty, whether it should be based on gross production or net profit for oil-producing states.

The state is expected to collect an additional revenue of RM3.897 billion from the new sales tax on petroleum products this year.

He cited how developed countries prioritised implementing social policies to improve the quality of living. Germany and Scandinavian countries are able to provide free education as they have adequate funds to carry out such an initiative.

“We must plan our governance properly. If we have enough funds to accommodate social development, the people will benefit. Wealth is the asset of everyone. We (the government) are only the trustee to manage it,” he said.

Abang Johari pointed out that the EFS initiative was one example of how the state government could give back to the people.

EFS is a RM1,000 one-off incentive given to newborns in Sarawak, whose parents are Malaysians with a “K” status Mykad regardless of race, religion and social status. The fund can only be taken once the beneficiary reaches the age of 18.

Abang Johari gave his assurance that if the state’s revenue continued to improve, new initiatives would be announced at the end of the year.

Among those in consideration include programmes and initiatives to lessen the burden of parents, he hinted.

“We have a new revenue stream, so let us hope our income will continue to improve,” he said, in reference to the sales tax on petroleum products. — DayakDaily