Bridging the East-West gap needs more than just Pan-Borneo Highway: Chia
Published on: Monday, November 02, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Efforts to bridge the disparity between West Malaysia and East Malaysia need more than just promising Sabahans the Pan Borneo Highway, which will only be completed in 2021.Sabah Progressive Party Deputy President Melanie Chia said Sabahans waited almost 10 years to get the Bus Rapid Transit for Kota Kinabalu.

The Federal Government had announced a superior public transportation system in the 9th Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) and the establishment of the Public Transport Trust Fund was set up then.

"This grand scheme was proposed when the government increased the petrol prices to the hull and cries of car users and the government then promised that the Public Transport Trust Fund to fund public transport system in the country.

"It is only after 10 years that they kick-start this in Sabah. We waited two Malaysia Plans and only in this 2016 Budget, the first year of the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan, that we see Sabah being allotted fund for the Bus Rapid Transit.

"Meanwhile, in Kuala Lumpur, they are already talking about doing MRT II and LRT 3 with much bigger allocation," she said.

She added that being the first year of the 11th Malaysian Plan, the 2016 Budget is important, but for Kota Kinabalu, the allocation for the Bus Rapid Transit is the only allocation.

She recalled that under the 11th Malaysia Plan, there was a Master Plan for four sites to spearhead growth in Malaysia and it was stated that Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu will be the growth catalysts to stimulate national development and that by 2020, these cities will have undergone a steep-change in their economic growth, importance as talent hubs and liveability.

"To achieve this target, it is pertinent that budget allocation be set aside for plans and programmes to make this a reality by 2020.

And it will be right to start with the 2016 Budget but there was no other obvious allocation other than for the Bus Rapid Transit."

Much talk about bridging the gap in development for Sabah, she said, other than the Pan Borneo Highway and the Bus Rapid Transit system, there is no noted allocation for ports upgrade and capacity enhancement, no airport upgrade or air cargo hub and no downstream activity.

"Sabah is a resource rich state and still very much resources based and having efficient ports and air transport facilities is pertinent for the economic development of the State and I urge the State Government to ensure this.

"We are not only a major oil palm producer but we are also a major oil and gas producer in Malaysia. But until today, Sabah still takes the back stand in the oil and gas industry.

"Look at the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) in Johor. Petronas had decided to develop a refinery and petrochemical integrated development project in Pengerang where there is no oil nor gas production," she said.

Melanie pointed out that the total investment for PIPC project is approximately RM97 billion and it is expected to employ 70,000 workers during construction and generate 4,000 new jobs upon completion. In the 2016 Budget, Pengerang PIPC is getting another RM18 billion investment.

"By 2019 when PIPC is completed, the economic boost that it will bring to Johor is tremendous. And what do we get? Sabah is in a position to take a front seat and the people in government has to go and get it for us," she said.

Melanie further cautioned that with whatever that has been allocated to Sabah, the government has to ensure that the local will benefit.

She added that in line with the earlier announcement by the Prime Minister that projects in Sabah should be awarded to Sabah-based companies and contractors, the State Government must ensure that only local Sabah-based companies will be awarded these projects.

"Gone were the days when Sabahans are told that we do not have qualified companies or contractors or that we are not up to the grade. Time and business are also more challenging now and if we do not look after ourselves, who will?" she asked.

On the tax reliefs and the upward adjustment of the minimum wage policy which the government hopes to bring relief to the M40 and the B40 groups, Melanie stressed that the bottom line is still the important consideration for these groups.

"The question is, do they live better? Has their quality of life improved? If the costs of living keep going up, the proposed changes may not address fully their problem.

Would they really have extra money to spend after paying off all the bills which are now higher?

"Therefore, the burden of the rising costs of living must be addressed and the government must seriously look at this problem," she said.

On this note, she hoped the Malaysia Shipping Master Plan which will be ready by the end of this year will address the cabotage policy and that the Transport Minister will resolve the woes of Sabahans afflicted by the cabotage policy.


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