Premier instructs EPU to come out with own mechanism in determining poverty status

Abang Johari (fourth right) hands over an appointment letter to a community leader. Also seen are (from left) Mawan, Salang, Len, Rolland Duat and Mohd Abdullah.

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By Lian Cheng

JULAU, Nov 17: Questioning statistics purportedly showing Sarawak is the third poorest State and Pakan is the poorest district in Malaysia, Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg says Sarawak will come out with its own mechanism to determine the poverty status as he believes that the previous survey carried out did not include fixed assets.

He noted that while Pakan has been said to be a poor district but the number of vehicles in Julau has been increasing.

“Why do you need a gas station? Because there are many cars here. Why are there many cars here? Because of the good economy, people can afford to buy cars. For if they don’t have cars, why do they need to buy gas?

“We will build one gas station here. Because we know people in Julau, Meluan, Pakan, their incomes have increased, not just due to pepper because our economy has recovered.

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“That is why I asked EPU (Economic Planning Unit) of Sarawak do it with our own method,” said Abang Johari when attending a “Meet the People” Session held here today.

He was responding to Meluan assemblyman Rolland Duat Jubin who requested for a gas station to be built in the town on behalf of residents.

Abang Johari said from an economic perspective, poverty should not only be measured by the amount of cash people have but fixed assets such as native customary rights (NCR) land must be included.

“That is why when they said people in this area such as Pakan are in poverty, it is disputable,” said Abang Johari.

He pointed out NCR land can be monetised and should be included as a net tangible asset, which should be included when measuring poverty rate.

He said many people in Pakan are listed in the eKasih database because they wanted to continue to receive welfare aid despite being rich enough to own cars.

Citing his experience as Housing Minister and was responsible for developing Sibu Jaya, he said during that time, many from Julau, Kanowit, Kapit and Song had bought houses in Sibu Jaya with cash.

“The AmBank general manager was surprised by the fixed deposits of people from these places.

“Another thing was the people here bought Sibu Jaya houses using cash. Kuching people don’t do that. This truly happened and I witnessed it. That is why when someone said people here are poor, it may be wrong. Their method may be wrong,” said Abang Johari.

Meanwhile, Meluan assemblyman Rolland Duat also said that several individuals in Julau have become millionaires through planting pepper.

“I am finding ways to help pepper farmers. As a representative, I am trying to find ways to help all of you. We in Julau are depending on pepper planting and hold the record of being the highest pepper producer in Sarawak,” he said.

Also present were Natural Resources and Urban Development Deputy Minister Datuk Len Talif, Pakan assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom, GPS P209 Julau candidate Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum and Deputy State Secretary Dr Mohd Abdullah Zaidel.

In 2019, then Rural and Regional Development Minister Rina Harun was reported as saying Pakan was the poorest district in Malaysia as it had an average registered household income of RM2,760 per month.

The second and third poorest districts were in Sabah—Tongod (RM3,057) and Pitas (RM3,076). These three districts were among the 28 poor districts in Malaysia—13 in Sarawak, seven in Kelantan, five in Sabah, two in Kedah and one in Pahang, Rina was quoted as saying. — DayakDaily