Sarawak’s anomaly – ‘Rich State Poor People’: Chong

Chong Chieng Jen

KUCHING, July 24: The Sarawak state government boasted a reserve of RM31 billion yet Sarawak is ranked third for the highest number of poor families among the 13 states in Malaysia.

Highlighting the latest report by the Statistic Department of Malaysia (DOSM) today, Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen said that Sarawak is a rich state with poor people.

In the Household Income and Basic Amenities Survey Report 2019 released by the DOSM on July 10, 2020, he pointed out that both the mean and median household income of Sarawak were below the national averages.

“In terms of the poverty rate, Sarawak has the third highest incidence of families under the poverty line income (PLI) which earns less than RM2,208 per month, after Sabah and Kelantan.

“Sarawak is much higher than the national figure with incidence of families below the PLI of the whole nation in 2019 is 5.6 per cent, while the figure for Sarawak is 9 per cent.

“Taking Sarawak’s population at 3.2 million in 2019 and the household size of 3.9 taken by the DOSM, that means that there are approximately 820,000 households in Sarawak and out of the number, 73,800 families live below the PLI,” he pointed out in a statement today.

The report, among others, revealed that the national mean disposable household income is RM6,764 per month while the mean disposable household income of Sarawak is only RM5,218 per month, which is RM1,546 per month below the national figure.

Secondly, the national median disposable household income is RM5,116 per month while the median disposable household income of Sarawak is only RM3,994 per month, which is RM1,122 per month below the national figure.

Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman, thus said this simply did not make sense that the state government has the highest amount of reserves amongst the 13 states in Malaysia and yet have so many poor families in the state with median disposable household income at only RM3,994.

“If we compare the figure with the two states with the highest median disposable household income, namely Selangor (RM6,837) and Johor (RM5,516), the reserves of these state governments as at Dec 31, 2018 were only RM3 billion for Johor and RM2.1 billion for Selangor, less than 10 per cent of Sarawak’s RM31 billion reserves, yet their people are far richer and earn much higher income than us,” he explained.

He opined that there were only two possible explanations for such an anomaly of ‘Rich State Poor People’, with one – the state government having committed to too much debt that its reserves could no longer be liquidated to generate income for the people.

“Secondly, the state government has got its priority all wrong, instead of working to enrich the people, it is geared towards making its account look good,” he said.

Chong stressed that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and the state Finance Minister has a duty to address and be accountable to the people of Sarawak, this dichotomy of ‘Rich State Poor People’.

Furthermore, he stressed that the few recent multi-billion projects announced by Abang Johari will exhaust the RM31 billion reserves in no time, namely the second trunk road, the coastal highway, the 5,000 telco towers, hydrogen bus project, the ART (autonomous rail transit) project, the several airports proposed to be built by the state, the proposal to own an airline, and the latest proposal to own a mobile internet service provider company.

“Save for the construction sector, these projects have no ostensible impact on the local SMEs (small and medium size enterprises) and the small traders.

“They will also not improve the median disposable household income of the great majority of Sarawakians,” he said.

Chong opined that the state government should move away from these mega projects and focus on helping the SMEs and small traders in the state.—DayakDaily