Build what people need, not what govt wants

Lee Kee Bian

MIRI: It is the right or effective development that makes the difference and not just any development offered to the people.

The promise of development has often been bandied about by politicians trying to win the people’s support.

“Let’s not get confused by the word ‘development’ because we must know what it’s all about,” said a former two-term Baram councillor Lee Kee Bian.

He said development must be distinguished by what it represented and what it really meant to the people.

“Basic development is the result of natural process of growth and it goes in tandem with population increase, even without direct government intervention there’s not much credit to claim for this,” he said.

Lee said the people expected at least basic development needed to support a growing population, and today the demand was for stimulated development as a result of direct government planning or intervention.

“People will appreciate if their leaders are far-sighted enough to bring about development that meets their expectations,” he said.

Lee recalled an incident when he opposed the building of a civic centre in the middle of Marudi because of the lack of parking space.

“I tried but could not convince my fellow councillors that the plan was wrong,” said Lee, who was then approached by a group of town people who opposed the building plan because it would affect their businesses.

Though he could not change the council’s decision, Lee suggested that they write an appeal letter which he offered to pass to the Chief Minister who was coming for a visit then.

The proposed Baram Civic Centre was relocated to a more spacious and scenic site near the river that Lee recommended.

This was an example he gave, where the same building when built in different locations could produce different results – if done right, it would make a big difference in the lives of the people.

“Good development is not about building what the government wants, but building what the people need,” he said.

He, therefore, cautioned against rushing into mega projects like building mega-dams that might lead to negative repercussions, such as loss of land and heritage, and causing unhappiness and potential loss of support from the people.

He suggested listening to the people to find out what they really wanted, and explore alternatives that suit their needs.

“A caring government will go direct to the people to find out if the people like the type of development proposed, and not to decide for them what they don’t want,” he added.

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