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Ahad, April 21, 2024

MP: Budget allocation of RM6.3 billion is still not adequate for Sabah’s pressing needs

KUALA  LUMPUR: While welcoming the RM6.3 billion allocation for Sabah under Budget 2023, a minimal increase from RM5.2 billion for this year, former Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew is concerned whether it is adequate to meet the State’s pressing needs in respect of infrastructure development and proposed improvements for the health and education sectors.

The Tawau MP hoped the Federal Government would keep its pledge to give priority to enhancing Sabah’s health facilities as stated by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz when tabling the Budget on Friday.

“Of the RM36.1 billion allocated for the Health Ministry, a sum of RM420 million has been earmarked for repairing  hospitals and dilapidated health clinics as well as for procurement of new medical equipment.

“This is for the entire nation, and not just for Sabah where some 326 health clinics are in need of immediate upgrading (as announced by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin during his recent visit to Sabah). 

“Furthermore, the Tawau Hospital and Duchess of Kent Hospital will be upgraded to be major specialist hospitals with additional specialist services.

“Similarly, I doubt whether the RM1.1 billion (from the Education Ministry’s allocation of RM55.6 billion) reportedly for the repair and maintenance of all schools will be sufficient. 

“This is because Sabah alone has a sizeable number of dilapidated schools awaiting restoration, especially in the rural areas,” Liew, who is also Api-Api Assemblywoman, said in a statement on Saturday.

According to her, some schools in her constituency, including SK Titingan, have asked for additional chairs and laptops for pupils in need.

On the RM1.3 billion allocation for Digital Nasional Bhd to increase 5G internet coverage nationwide, the MP pointed out that students in Sabah, particularly those in rural schools, are still struggling with internet connection. “Based on a media report, 52pc of the schools here in Sabah do not even have basic internet access (let alone 4G or 5G).”

Liew wondered whether the RM11.7 billion allocated for infrastructure projects in Sabah and Sarawak as well as health and education facilities would be enough to cater to immediate needs.

“Some of our roads are in an atrocious state, especially in the east coast, and the Batu 32 Sandakan-Telupid stretch  (that is riddled with potholes) has even become the butt of a joke among international travellers (as posted on social media),” she said.

On the so-called inclusive Budget 2023, the MP lamented that it does not include any assistance scheme for flood and fire victims. “When I visited the Tawau constituency recently, I was asked by the people of Kg Kurnia Jaya as to when the Government would rebuild their homes.”

The village experienced the worst fire incident in March this year, involving 500 families who are still homeless, Liew added.

However, she hailed the Finance Minister’s announcement that the Government would improve the infrastructure at seven airports in Sabah and Sarawak, and this included building wheelchair ramps.