Masing reminds Federal Finance Ministry “one size does not fit all”

Masing delivering his speech in DUN. Screen grab taken from the DUN CCTV feed.

Follow and subscribe to DayakDaily on Telegram for faster news updates.

KUCHING, July 17: Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transport (MIDT) Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing says the federal government has classified rural infrastructure development as ‘sederhana kritikal’ (moderately critical), so he wonders if infrastructure projects costing more than RM10 million will be implemented.

With reference to an official letter from the Ministry of Finance (MOF) dated June 29, 2018 (Reference: S/K.Kew/PK/MOF/D/00 JLD.10 SK.6 (14), Masing revealed that MOF had directed that all projects of more than RM10 million of which Letters of Award had not been issued or where the progress of construction is less than 15 per cent are to be implemented according to level of priorities.

According to the same official letter, projects are divided into three categories, namely critical, moderately critical (or ‘Sederhana Kritikal’) and not critical (or ‘Tidak Kritikal’).

“In other words, the new Malaysia sees development of rural infrastructure as secondary, and in layman terms ‘ada, tak ada, tak apa’,” said Masing.

He thus questioned if the federal government would continue to finance rural development projects that are much needed by rural folk.

Masing said Sarawak had a large hinterland, and Sarawak and Sarawakians were the ones who would lose out the most based on this new guideline.

“It is indeed a slap to our face that our relatives and friends in the rural areas may continue to live without access to towns and cities and cut off from development,” said Masing, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) today.

He opined that the latest MOF guideline and directive seemed to show that Sarawak’s development and Sarawakians’ well-being are just “an afterthought.”

“My ministry and I do understand that the present new government is trying to improve the administrative processes and procedures for procurement, which is commendable. But while doing that, the new Malaysia should remember that Malaysia does not consist of Peninsular Malaysia alone and should take into consideration Sarawak’s needs as part of the prescribed equation.

“Blanket policy of categorising infrastructure development as not critical may be suitable to Peninsular Malaysia, which is already well developed. That approach should not have been forced onto Sarawak, which is underdeveloped as far as infrastructure is concerned. One size does not fit all,” said Masing.

He said due to its sheer size, Sarawak needed infrastructure development desperately.

“One of Sarawak’s assets is land, and without infrastructure development, these assets could never be productive. They will be left undeveloped, uncultivated, idle and unproductive.

“Therefore, part of MIDT’s jobs is to plan for better infrastructure networks and build this infrastructure so that Sarawak can prosper. While trying to accomplish this, it is inevitable that Sarawak will have to seek financial assistance from the federal government,” argued Masing.

He said the past allocations for infrastructure development by the previous federal government might not have been sufficient, but infrastructure development had never been deemed as ‘unimportant’ or worst ‘negligible’ as far as the previous federal government was concerned.

“Sarawak is, after all, part of Malaysia like our Malayan cousins and friends. Sarawakians also deserve to be given the opportunity to have basic necessities and infrastructure,” said Masing.

Masing reminded Works Minister Baru Bian of his statement on Nov 10, 2017: “The amount for Sabah and Sarawak is only 2.4 per cent of the total budget allocation. This, more than anything else is a clear indication of how the federal government views us: a convenient fixed deposit vote bank but of inconsequential importance when it comes to sharing the pie. How is that paltry amount going to help us play catch-up with Peninsular Malaysia, which was one of the stated aims of Sarawak in agreeing to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963? Is this how Malaya treats its equal partners? All the more reason we must fight for full Devolution of Powers to us, including greater fiscal allocations”. — DayakDaily