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Sarawak is already the richest state, but…

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Believe it or or not, Sarawak is already the richest state in the country. But much of its wealth is fast disappearing, warns our correspondent.

Long Singu, Sarawak © Lizzie Bardwell courtesy of Molong Post

The BN pledges to make Sarawak the richest state in Malaysia.

But, according to the Department of Statistics, Sarawak is already the richest state in Malaysia, outside of WP Kuala Lumpur.

Yes, you read that correctly: The Department of Statistics reports that Sarawak is already the richest state in Malaysia.

According to the department, Sarawak’s GDP per person, a common measure of wealth, amounted to RM30,318 in 2009, higher than Penang’s RM29,569 and Selangor’s RM27,609, and much higher than Johor’s RM18,458.

Why then is Sarawak a net exporter of people — despite the large inflow of foreign labour into Sarawak? Why are tens of thousands of Sarawakians leaving and going to places like Johor and Selangor to look for work? Why does Sarawak have higher unemployment?

In other words, it appears that Sarawak’s problem is the distribution of that wealth. Selangor and Penang may not have as high a per capita GDP, but it is better distributed, meaning households and individuals have better incomes

Sarawak’s GDP/person may be higher, but as Sarawakians well know, Sarawak’s wealth is increasingly concentrated into the hands of a few, including the “first” family.

Take oil palm development: yes, that is generating large amounts of wealth, but does it go to the people? Or, instead, to a handful of companies? What about the timber wealth? Where has that gone? Into real property and buildings in Canada, Australia, the United States and England, belonging to the “first” family, to the big six timber companies, or into the pockets of the ordinary people of Sarawak?

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What about business opportunities? Who gets the contracts, leaving the people to scramble for sub- and sub-sub contracts?

And land? Once upon a time, the natives of Sarawak were the richest in the country. Today, they find themselves losing more and more of that land. The people of Asap Resettlement know that best of all. Before, they owned and had access to hundreds of thousands of hectares of the Balui valley. Today, they are forced to live on little more than 1 hectare a family.

Meanwhile, Sarawak has the lowest – lower even than Sabah – road development index in the country. Low income Sarawakians “enjoy” less of the electricity rebate than elsewhere in the country — they get the same allowance of up to RM20 a month, but the per unit charge in Sarawak is 50 per cent higher than in Malaya or Sabah. Worse, more Sarawakians are without 24/7 electricity than even in Sabah, and what clean water they used to get is increasingly polluted by loggers and land/plantation developers. Even phone coverage in Sarawak is worse than in Sabah.

What Sarawak needs is a voice for the people; recognition of their human, social economic and cultural rights; and accountability and transparency in governance — at all times, not just when there is a challenge at elections.

What Sarawak does not need are fine pledges over which they have no right to call the government to account while they see their so-called leaders get richer by the day! What they don’t need are leaders who tell them to be grateful for the little goodies tossed their way come election time, road construction vehicles which appear at election time and disappear even before the results are announced, and promises laced with threats. What they want is government for and by the people, a true 1Sarawak, not a 1Sarawak for 1family & friends.

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To the people of Sarawak: what you see today is the result of the presence of a strong opposition. Without that, there would not have been all this promised expenditure and promises.

Remember: a vote for the BN is a vote for business as it has been these past thirty years; a vote for BN is a vote for Taib; a vote for the BN is to vote away our future.

Today, Sarawak may have the highest GDP/person in the country, outside of Wilayah Perseketuan KL. But much of that wealth is disappearing. The next five years are critical.


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