Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Sabah, Sarawak can be ‘rags to riches’ story

Jeffrey Kitingan joins the “war of words” between two former Sabah Chief Ministers on “Sabah rights”.

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah and Sarawak, relegated now to the dubious distinction of being the poorest states in the Federation, can rise once again and become the richest states in the country in a “rags to riches” story, a reversal of the “riches to rags” story which began in 1976.

Bingkor assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan expressed confidence that this could happen once, for starters, Sabah and Sarawak “regain their position as Equal Partners of the peninsula in the Federation”.

At present, he pointed out that “the two Borneo states had been relegated to being the 12th and 13th states in the Federation” in the wake of Singapore ending, in 1965, its merger with the peninsula and its exit from Malaysia.

The emergence of Sabah and Sarawak as the richest states in the Federation, added Jeffrey who is also Star Sabah Chief, hinges on the Federal Government complying with the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land, on the return of revenues collected in the Borneo states.

The arrears of the 40 per cent due to Sabah alone from 1963 until now would definitely be more than RM50 billion, estimates Jeffrey. “This will not only make Sabah the richest State in the nation but one of the very few nations in the world with a positive reserve.”

He was referring to calls in the local media and the social media for two-fifths, or 40 per cent of the net revenue collected by the Federal Government in the Borneo states, to be returned to them in line with the Federal Constitution, and regaining oil and gas rights, among other rights issues.

He was also commenting on the continuing war of words in the local media between former Sabah Chief Minister Harris Salleh and Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the Huguan Siou and a former Sabah Chief Minister, on “the loss of Sabah (and Sarawak) rights”.

Jeffrey warned that the financial position of Sabah and Sarawak would worsen come April 1, “when the people are taken for a ride once again as fools”, with a double whammy i.e. the imposition of 6 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the abolishment of the Sales and Service Tax (SST) retained by the Sabah and Sarawak Governments, even as the crippling National Cabotage Policy (NCP) continues.

Under the NCP, Sabah and Sarawak cannot import or export goods directly even from nearby places like Hong Kong and China, but must do so through Port Klang, the designed National Load and Transshipment Centre. Carriage in Malaysian waters has to be via locally-registered ships, generally owned by shippers in the peninsula.

“Already, as a result of the NCP among others, the cost of living in Sabah and Sarawak is much higher than that in the peninsula while the standard of living is lower,” fumed Jeffrey. “At the same time, the minimum wage at RM800 per month in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan is much lower than the RM900 per month for the peninsula.”

Gambling companies, all based in the peninsula, are also siphoning away millions from Sabah and Sarawak.

Jeffrey, returning to his main theme, pointed out that under Part IV Item 2(1) of the Tenth Schedule in the Federal Constitution, Sabah and Sarawak are entitled to two-fifths (40 per cent) of the net revenue collected in the two Borneo states.

Sabah can be an advanced economy bringing prosperity to its people.

Why is the federal government ignoring the Federal Constitution and not returning the 40 per cent net revenue collected from Sabah and Sarawak?

”If the Umno Sabah and Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders genuinely care for the welfare and interests of Sabahans, they should claim for the return of the 40 per cent net revenue collected from Sabah from 1963 until now,” demanded Jeffrey. “The tens of billions will propel Sabah into an advanced economy and prosperity for Sabahans.”

Petronas is making billions of ringgit from Sabah’s oil and gas, he noted. “Between 2012 and 2015, Petronas was expected to receive more than RM85 billion. Sabah only gets a measly 5 per cent share which is only about RM4.25 billion.”

”Major oil companies producing oil and gas from Sabah are paying billions in taxes each year.”

So are big plantation companies based in the peninsula but with huge acreages in Sabah and paying billions each year, he continued. “Billions more are collected as Federal taxes and other government revenue from Sabah businesses and ordinary Sabahans each year.”

“The Customs Department in Sabah alone collects more than RM830 million with another RM1.2 billion in GST for the remaining nine months this year.”

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