Sunday, May 22

Budget: Too much emphasis on people, not planet – NGO

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KOTA KINABALU: Budget 2013 unveiled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Friday has received mixed reaction from the public.

Borneo Rhino Alliance executive director, Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne, felt that there was too much emphasis on people and profit but not so much emphasis on the planet.

“That is fair enough, as the government’s stated policy is on people and performance. We are already entering the new era of global climate change, however, along with human population growth. Human welfare expectations will continue to outstrip our planet’s carrying capacity in our children’s lifetime. So, close attention to planet is always a must,” he said.

“For example, a nationwide programme to restore forests can help in terms of ensuring a predominant land use that will help regulate water supply, absorb carbon, grow large and sustainable quantities of wood for future industry, potentially provide work for rural people in remote areas, and save biodiversity. Sabah is already leading the way in this thinking and in implementation. The oft-repeated notion that because European countries cleared most of their forests thousands of years ago, so that Malaysia should do the same, is out-dated and counter-productive.”

He added that it may now be time to review how Malaysia views nature conservation.

“If policy prioritization and governmental funding do not touch on wildlife, then it might be better to explicitly delegate such work to non-governmental organisations. Government role then would be to support the NGOs, remove the bureaucratic obstacles that affect NGOs, and give blessing to raising the necessary funds from civil society, philanthropists, corporations and industry,” he said.

Conservationist, Harjinder Kaur opined that the budget sounded like an election budget.

“I don’t like this piecemeal offering because it doesn’t solve the bigger issue. I prefer if they use the money for something long term. This is like giving fishermen fish instead of nets. It is great but it only helps people one time,” she said on the BR1M payment.

She added that there are a lot of poverty issues in Sabah and there are many rural poor in the State.

“I would like to see more infrastructure development, in this respect,” she said.

In the context of education, Harjinder Kaur said she fears for the sector because policy kept changing with every change of minister.

“They keep changing back and forth. Throwing money in education is good but first of all, why do we keep having to keep changing our policy every ten years?”

Additionally, there is also the missing gap between East Malaysian history, the indigenous history and orang asli history in the history subjects taught in schools, she said.

“I am worried about the Malaysian history subject.”

And as a conservationist, Harjinder Kaur added that the Malaysian government is not focused on saving wildlife that are endangered within the country such as the Sumatran rhinos, the sunbear, the orangutans, which could be found in Sabah and even the tiger in Peninsular Malaysia.

“I am not happy for the money spent on panda bear. I think that money should be spent on Malaysian wildlife. But of course, this is not part of the budget.”

Community researcher, Jenny Sanem, on the other hand, felt happy that the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) 2.0 has been extended to single unmarried individuals aged 21 years and above who are earning less than RM2,000 per month whereby they would be receiving a payment of RM250.

Under BR1M, married couples with a household income of less than RM3,000 per month would also receive RM500 payment.

On this, Jenny said that it was good to hear that the single unmarried individuals were included in receiving the payment.

“It is very good. But I would prefer if the payment was made monthly as there are many out there who are earning RM800 per month and this income is not enough to sustain our livelihood. It would be good if the government could consider this,” she said.