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Lesser powers vested in CM’s office under Pakatan rule

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by Joseph Tawie

Pakatan Sarawak‘s alternative budget aims to among others, shift away from exploiting the state’s natural resources.

KUCHING: The ‘economic democratisation’ proposed by Pakatan Rakyat Sarawak’s alternative budget 2012  will not only decentralise powers vested in the Chief Minister’s office but also effect a drastic cut on funds chanelled to the state Finance Ministry.

According to Pakatan shadow Miniter of Finance, Chong Chieng Jen, the funds will instead be ‘reallocated’ to other state ministries with the aim of promoting financial transparency and accountability.

“Under economic democratisation, Pakatan Sarawak will cut the Ministry of Finance’s allocation from RM2 billion to RM500 million and reallocate these funds to other ministries.

“This will increase the efficiency of the other ministries, many of which now have to wait for approvals from the Chief Minister’s office before projects can proceed.

“Decentralisation will  also increase transparency and accountability since ad-hoc large scale projects cannot be approved by a single dominant ministry and individual ministries will have to account for ministry-related projects.

“A significant amount of wastages and inefficiencies have also occurred as a result of the over-centralisation of resources under the Chief Minister,” said Chong.

He pointed out that many ill-advised contracts have been awarded without undergoing a comprehensive tender process, many of them to companies with links to the Chief Minister and his family.

“Pakatan Sarawak will allocate RM10 million to independent auditors and regulators to investigate and review these contracts, and contracts to build a series of dams under SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy),” he said.

He said Pakatan Sarawak will put a stop to all dam building activities until the completion of a through survey of NCR land boundaries and of a comprehensive environmental and social impact assessment (EIAs) and (SIAs) in the affected.

Pakatan’s budget has ‘surplus’

Unveiling the coalition’s RM4,285 million alternative budget 2012 just  three days ahead of the state Barisan Nasional government budget, Chong said based on their figures, Pakatan Sarawak expected to have a surplus of RM215.0 million.

“With a revenue estimated at RM4,500 million, the Supply Expenditure estimates at RM1,301.5 million and Development Expenditure estimates at RM2,983.5 million, PR Sarawak ‘s Alternative Budget 2012 will have a surplus of RM215.0 million.

“This is a clear demonstration that the resources of the state can be allocated equitably, efficiently, effectively and transparently without putting the state in a deficit situation.

“The priorities of the Sarawak state budget have been misplaced and misguided for far too long.

“The many years of revenue obtained from the exploitation of natural resources in oil and gas as well as the forestry sectors have not been spent wisely.

“The over-centralisation of the revenue sources in the ministries controlled by the Chief Minister, notably by the Ministry of Finance, has contributed to a tremendous lack of transparency in how this money is being spent.

“The state government has not taken significant steps towards reducing the state’s dependence on natural resource exploitation as key economic drivers.

“Instead, the Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE), the new development strategy of the BN state government, continues to rely on the exploitation of natural resources, this time, on hydro-electricity, despite the significant human relocation and environmental destruction costs,”  said Chong, who is also  Kota Sentosa assemblyman.

Restructuring and reallocating

He said with its alternative budget 2012, Pakatan Sarawak aim slowly shifts the economy away from natural resources exploitation.

Chong added that Pakatan Sarawak aimed to achieve these objectives by emphasizing three key trusts:

(i)    Economic democratization through fiscal decentralisation and increased transparency and accountability;

(ii)  The prioritization of people though restructuring and reallocation, and

(iii)  Empowerment and enablement through economic capacity building.

On local authorities, Chong said the coalition will also increase funding for the local authorities from RM180 million (RM100 million to the Bintulu Development Authority and RM80 million to other 24 local authorities) to RM450 million to improve the provision of local services including road repairs, rubbish collection and street lighting.

This funding, he said, will be distributed according to the population and area which falls under the jurisdiction of respective local authorities.

He said that to ensure greater local accountability of this increase in local expenditure, Pakatan Sarawak proposed local elections for all 25 local authorities in the state.

“Having local elections is only part of the process which will lead to greater transparency and accountability on how money is spent and decisions are made at the local level.

“Anti-Corruption agencies such as the MACC also have to do their part along with a free media, political parties and no-government organisations and individuals.

“Pakatan Sarawak will allocate RM20 million for the conduct of local elections,” he said.

RM900 minimum wage

Meanwhile under its the prioritization of the people plan, Pakatan Sarawak has proposed the following allocations:

  • RM80 million to eradicate hard core poverty by topping up the wages of the hard core poor earning less than PLI (poverty line income) of RM860 per month. This will affect 20,000 households;
  • RM20 million to provide a social safety net for poor households when facing emergencies such as unexpected illness and pregnancies, accidents in the family, extra education related expenses. This will help close to 30,000 households;
  • RM117 million to provide for RM600 bonus to approximately 195,000 senior citizens aged 60 and above;
  • RM900 minimum wage pay policy which will be implemented gradually firstly in the state government and state agencies and then to logging and plantation companies; the state will pay fully EPF for those who earn RM900 per month and for 5% of the EPF contributions for those earning between RM901 and RM1,500 per month. This will cost RM300 million for approximately 250,000 individuals;
  • RM6 million to carry out a pilot project to establish community centres for the elderly with housing options in four cities: Kuching, Sibu, Miri and Bintulu.
  • RM10 million for financial assistance to the disabled community and a further RM10 million to various state agencies to intensify efforts to help persons with disabilities to lead independent lifestyles;
  • RM30 million for upgrading, repair and renovation work for low cost houses which have serious defects and shortcomings;
  • RM10 million to be set aside for a development fund which will be used for running of social programmes by NGOs, associations and charitable bodies;
  • RM10 million for repairs and upgrading of places of worship; and
  • RM598 million set aside to increase the quality of life of those at the bottom of economic ladder and for marginalized communities.

RM651 million for empowerment

On its third thrust –  empowerment and enablement through capacity building – Pakatan Sarawak has set aside a sum of RM651 million for the various projects including  RM20 million for Chinese vernacular schools and RM5 million for mission schools and in addition five plots of land of minimum of six acres each in major cities and towns for building of Chinese and mission schools where there is demand.

Pakatan Sarawak will also offer RM100 million for low-interest loan facilities to partly finance those who genuinely intend to set up factories in industrial estates and a  further RM50 million will be allocated to provide maintenance and upgrading work for infrastructure needs in the existing industrial estates and RM10 million to promote and upgrade industrial skills;

Forestry will also received RM20 million  to improve forest management policies including stepping up enforcement against illegal logging activities.

Rural electrification projects and supply of treated water will also be made possible with an RM250 million allocation

Empowering Sarawakians

Chong said: “The implementation of the policies outlined in this alternative budget will allow Sarawakians to enjoy the rich resources of the state.

“It will expand the middle class which will solidify the foundation of Sarawak’s economic growth.

“More importantly, it will empower Sarawakians to exercise full autonomy and rights over their own land.

“Although these policies cannot be put in place with immediate effect, Pakatan Sarawak is proposing them with the clear intention of implementing most, if not all of them, when PR wins power at the state level.

“It is also a useful means of forcing the BN to address the shortcomings of their own state budget as well as for Pakatan Sarawak to receive constructive feedback on some of the details of our own alternative budget,” Chong said.

Source : FMT

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