Photo : Datuk Christina Liew at the 16th State Legislative Assembly sitting on Monday.
KOTA KINABALU: Api Api Assemblywoman Datuk Christina Liew has urged the State Government to pressure the Federal Government to review the disproportionate Federal allocation of RM5.2 billion for Sabah under the 2022 National Budget which, she said, is beyond comprehension.
She lamented that despite the significant economic disparity between Sabah and the Peninsula, and Sabah’s high level of poverty, the state is still getting crumbs like in previous budgets.
Quoting the Statistics Department, Liew, who is also Tawau MP, said Sabah recorded the highest incidence of absolute poverty at 25.3 percent in 2020 (compared with 19.5 percent in 2019)
“The amount (RM5.2 billion), which is just a small fraction of the overall budget for the nation, cannot cover the State’s varied needs in the areas of infrastructure development, education and health as well as other vital sectors.
“We had expected a bigger allocation from the Federal Government to assist Sabah in its alleviation of the health crisis and road to economic recovery.
“We desperately need funds for flood mitigation projects (example, deepening or dredging of rivers) and landslide remedial measures, and also to improve the drainage system in the flood-prone districts of Kota Kinabalu, Penampang and Putatan, and the surrounding areas of Likas, Kolombong, Inanam, Telipok, Menggatal and Sepanggar,” she said Monday, when debating on the 2022 State Budget at the 16th State Legislative Assembly sitting.
Liew stressed that Sabah needs additional funding to repair or reconstruct roads and bridges damaged by natural disasters (example, flash floods and landslides) and to build new water treatment plants to resolve long-standing water supply woes.
According to her, since the 1999 Big Flood, Sabah has been experiencing similar occurrences almost every year.
“This year alone, torrential rains caused flood havoc and landslides, resulting in loss of lives and property on the west coast and in the northern and interior parts of the state in January, June and September. Presently, we are facing the North-East monsoon season.
“Against this scenario, I implore the State Government to appeal to the Federal Government to give Sabah at least 30pc of the overall budget of RM332 billion for 2022,” she said.
Meanwhile, Liew, who is a former Deputy Chief Minister, called for improvements to the public transport system in Kota Kinabalu.
“For decades, we have been talking about revamping the public transport system in Kota Kinabalu as part of measures to tackle traffic congestion. But unfortunately, this has yet to materialise because we lack the political will to achieve what we plan to do,” she said.
To improve the public transport system in Kota Kinabalu, she recalled, proposals for bus-stations complete with a ‘park and ride’ facility, monorail (proposed in 2009), light rail transit (LRT), trams, bus rapid transit (BRT) system and sky train (or rail transit line to connect the Kota Kinabalu International Airport with the city centre) have been made or mentioned since Kota Kinabalu became a city in 2000.
“We all know that Governments have come and gone but the perennial problem of traffic congestion in the city remains unsolved.
“In this regard, I believe it is high time to have a quick review of the various systems proposed or mentioned previously, and eliminate those systems that are deemed not sustainable, especially in terms of CAPEX (Capital Expenditure), and OPEX (Operation Expenditure).
“Perhaps, we can focus on revamping the existing bus business model towards being a sustainable public transport, and re-visit the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system for Kota Kinabalu, which was announced by the Government in 2015 for implementation in 2016,” Liew enthused.
Sharing her views, she said the BRT system which is believed to be a more sustainable public transport system for Kota Kinabalu shall complement the other multi-mode transport choices to ease accessibility, and target to reduce car-dependency at commuter peak-hours.
“Actually, the BRT system with its own dedicated bus lane (or busway) for the most part of the routes concerned, is still a bus-based public transport system. Its aim is to transform the conventional bus system along key routes with a view to serving the people better through quality bus features, facilities and services.
“We won’t do away with the basic buses because these are still needed as part of complementing multi-modes transport in Kota Kinabalu City, in areas where BRT lines are not available,” Liew explained.
The Api Api Assemblywoman reiterated the need for quality public transport (it will be bus focus to kick-start) with the elements of “attractiveness” such as bus tracking Apps to facilitate passengers when to be at the well-designed bus-stop for minimum waiting time, a bus fleet with trending good look and facilities for all, a bus lane (or busway) for reliable bus journey time, and an integrated e-fare system for bus transfer with ease and affordability, among other features.
According to her, a quality bus system can attract potential new bus patronage with “Carrot” or “Attraction” incentives to enable travellers to shift from private car-driven trips during school and commuter peak-hours.
This approach, Liew said, aims to reduce the number of vehicles converging on the city road networks towards easing traffic congestion under the concept of Sustainable Development for Public Transport.
She added : “I understand we have local-born talents who are passionate about promoting Sustainable Development with focus on urban transport.
“To ‘borrow’ some of the key words from these talents, one way forward is to review the current bus business model from IOIO, that is, Individual Owned, Individual Operated to perhaps GOCO, that is, Government-Owned, Contract Operated, whereby existing bus owners-operators are to be consolidated as shareholders of companies according to the routes they have been operating, and given the chance to serve by operating the Government-Owned bus business along the respective routes where they (bus owners-operators) will be paid a fee.”
For this to happen, Liew believes that all it takes is for the State leadership to set the right path (or to give the direction) for the right execution to take place.
“Towards this end, I suggest that the Government establish an urban transport-related government-linked company (GLC) or agency or investment arm under Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) to champion a new business model for the public transport system in the State capital. (It will be bus-based to start with).
“The GLC or agency or investment arm is to commit itself to invest in public transport business with financial sourcing beyond the fare box through alternative revenue sources,” she opined.
On the profits of such investment, Liew said these shall be sustainability for the People, Planet and Prosperity of a city like Kota Kinabalu.
“And can we ‘headhunt’ from the pool of existing and retired civil servants as well as private individuals in Sabah who are talented and innovative people to be the ‘force’ of public transport transformation? In other words, we need the right people to do the right job for tangible results,” she concluded.