Sarawak has not been given much attention by the Barisan Nasional-led government in the Budget 2012 although the state’s rural areas are being touted as the coalition’s ‘fixed deposit’, claimed Sarawak DAP.Said state DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen: “There is nothing much in the budget, except for the mention of building some roads, supply of electricity and water to the rural areas.“Even then we don’t know the amount as we have to share with Sabah. Given 20% of the RM232 billion of the total expenditure is for development, how much can Sarawak get for its development?
“In this type of budget, Sarawak roads will remain substandard forever. The amount of money given to Sarawak for its development does not commensurate with its contribution to the national coffers.”
Chong, who is the Bandar Kuching MP, was commenting on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s Budget 2012 announcement on Friday.
“For the past 14 years, the nation has (accumulated) a total deficit amounting to more than RM436 billion.
“The next year’s budget has lot of goodies. Where will money for all these come from? And I think the only way for the government to finance all these is to obtain loans.
“We expect to incur RM45 billion deficit, and if you add this, our deficit will easily come to RM500 billion.
“This will be more than 50% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” he said.
Reflecting on Greece’s experience, Chong said the country went bankrupt when its deficits reached 67% of its GDP.
“We are very near towards that direction… this budget is a very unhealthy one.
“Eighty percent of the nation’s budget is for administrative operations and emolument, while only 20% is for the development fund,” he said.
Chong believes a balance budget should be one that allocates 60% for administrative operations and 40% for development.
He said development projects such as roads will help to stimulate the economy adding that the current imbalanced budget had been going on for the past few years due to the over-sized civil service.
“For this year, we see the emolument of 1.2 million civil servants, and the amount spent on this is more than the whole amount of development fund for the whole country.
“This is very inefficient use of money. That is really shocking,” he added.
Deafening silence on anti-corruption
Chong welcomed the government’s allocations of fund for Chinese and mission schools and RM500 for a poor family, RM100 for each school child and RM200 each for university students, pointing out that the only good feeling is that something is better than nothing.
“But the government can’t really solve the financial burden of the poor. It does not address the poverty issue unlike our Alternative Budget.
“We give monthly allowance to the poor, and yet we can manage to reduce the expenditure.
“The main difference between the BN budget and alternative budget is that we emphasise on open tender, anti-corruption and the efficient use of resources, whereas the BN budget is deafeningly silent on anti-corruption, cronyism, wastages and leakages,” he said.
Chong recalled that during the times of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, there was a lot of ‘hot air’ against corruption.
“At least there was some air. But this time there is not an iota of air against corruption.
“I think he has resigned to the fact that corruption is a way of life,” he said.
Sarawak BN happy
Meanwhile, Sarawak BN leaders heaped praises on the budget, describing it as people-friendly and the government’s concern for all levels of society.
“While developing and transforming the economy of the country, the government is also helping to reduce the burden of the people,” said Social Development Minister William Mawan Ikom.
He said that the budget covers the basic needs of the rural society and is able to help improve their livelihood.
“No one is left in the announcement and the BN government has fulfilled its promises and realises what is needed by the people,” said Mawan, who is also the president of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party.
Another Dayak leader James Masing, who is Parti Rakyat Sarawak president, said that the budget allocated to rural infrastructures is Najib’s clear understanding of the need of accessibility among rural population.
“No amount of goodwill can eradicate rural poverty if rural land remains inaccessible,” said Masing, who is Land Development Minister.
On allocation for education, he said: “Education budget is a budget of a developed nation, because it gives free education to Malaysians till form five.
“This budget recognizes the value of educated manpower to move the nation forward,” he added.