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Friday, November 1, 2013

Jeffrey: Postpone GST for Sabah, Sarawak

| October 28, 2013

The Bingkor assemblyman said if the federal government can "implement 1-country 2-laws on the “Allah” issue then it can also exempt Sabah and Sarawak from the GST.

KOTA KINABALU: Maverick Sabah politician Jeffrey Kitingan has slammed the 2014 Budget as a blow to the expectations of east Malaysians.

The state assembly representative said the people of Sabah and Sarawak had high hopes that the two states would be rewarded for keeping the Barisan Nasional government of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak in power.

But Kitingan said some amendments could still be made to the disappointing budget announced by Najib to give some relief to the long-suffering people of the two Borneo states.

One such measure, he said would be to postpone implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Sabah and Sarawak scheduled to come into effect nationwide in 2015.

“If the federal government can implement 1-country 2-laws on the “Allah” issue which indirectly is a recognition of the 1-Country 2-System, the federal government can exempt Sabah and Sarawak from the GST scheduled in 2015, at least for 3-5 years,” he said yesterday.

The Bingkor assemblyman also questioned the rationale of allocating funds to help reduce the prices of necessities in Sabah when the same could be accomplished by abolishing the cabotage policy.

The Budget 2014 allocation of RM331 million to continue the price uniformity programme and subsidies including transport cost and RM30 million for an additional 60 Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M), he said, did not make economic sense.

He called it stop-gap measures which would not resolve the systemic problems of higher costs of living and high unemployment in Sabah.

“Both the federal and Sabah governments should undertake a study on the impact of the KRIM in Sabah as there are complaints that the KRIM has affected the small sundry and provision shops in Sabah and many will eventually close down,” he said.

Kitingan also agreed with other 2014 budget critics in the state that the allocation of RM2 to RM3 billion development expenditure for Sabah and Sarawak was a slap on the status of the equal partnership of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysia.

Pittance for Borneo

He described the allocation of RM500 million for upgrading of the Pan Borneo Highway as a disgrace and totally unacceptable.

“For the record, RM400 million was announced for the 33km. Sibu-Kapit road. How far can RM500 million do for the Pan Borneo Highway?” he asked.

He reminded that just recently the state Public Works Department had revealed that RM2 billion was needed for urgent road repairs in Sabah and another RM700 million was needed to urgently repair and upgrade 65 bridges in Sabah.

“Yet there is not even a mention of any allocation in Budget 2014 (for this) … (this is) not the right way to treat Sabah which contributed 22 out of 25 MPs that help keep the Umno/BN federal government in power,” he said.

The budget planning for next year, he said, had come as “a huge disappointment to the people of Sabah” as well as senior state leaders like his elder brother Joseph Pairin, the president of BN coalition member Parti Bersatu Sabah.

“The PM himself had whipped up expectations of Sabahans especially the PBS delegates at their general assembly by asking Sabahans to wait for Friday’s Budget announcement,” he said.

On national level, Kitingan said that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Finance Minister, missed the opportunity to put the national economy on a stronger footing by reducing operating expenditure of RM217.7 billion.

In contrast, he said, only RM46.5 billion was set aside for development.
Reducing expenditure, he said, would have improved the country’s international credit rating and at the same time increase the well-being of the people especially the lower income groups.

Water tanks

Kitingan also lashed out at the cash handouts being made by the BN government, calling them approach as ill-conceived and leading to bigger expectations and greater dependency among the rural poor.

“There is no need to fish for votes for election season is over. The government should have invested more money in boosting the income earning capacity of the poor.

“Giving of RM75 million in water tanks is no way to treat the rural voters who voted to retain the Umno/BN federal government. If not for the 25 BN MPs in Sarawak, the budget would have been presented by a different Finance Minister,” he noted.

“It would have been better to spend RM500 million on 20 water treatment plants of RM25 million each to provide clean piped water in rural Sarawak given the many big dams there,” he said.

Kitingan also warned that the withdrawal of sugar subsidies would bring about an instantaneous price increases.

Taking a swipe at Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on the reasoning behind the end to the subsidy, he said it was “laughable” and bordered on “absurdity” that the subsidy cut was paired with reducing the incidence of diabetes in Malaysians.

“It is an undisputed medical fact that diabetes is not caused by sugar alone and a lower sugar intake alone does not reduce the diabetic rate,” he said.

The budget for next year, he said, proved that the BN government was continuing to disregard the importance of Sabah and Sarawak.

“It is high time for the Sabah and Sarawak governments to re-assess their support of the Umno/BN federal government.

“Perhaps a withdrawal of support and change of the federal government may bring about a better 2015 Budget for Sabah and Sarawak and a shot in the arm for both local economies and a better outlook and way of life for Sabahans and Sarawakians,” he said.

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