MUKAH: The Rural and Regional Development Ministry spent RM139 million on village roads, longhouse repair, provision of electricity and treated water in Mukah parliamentary seat in the last three years.
In addition, the federal government, through the ministry, had also allocated RM5 billion for the development of rural infrastructure and facilities throughout the state during the same period.
Last year alone, RM1.15 billion was spent on meeting the basic needs of rural folks in Sarawak, said its Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal when visiting Kampung Lintang, Balingian sub-district, some 60km from Mukah yesterday.
He acknowledged that due to its vastness, the state’s needs in terms of rural development had been great and even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had given extra attention to the state in terms of rural development.
On an issue highlighted by The Borneo Post, pertaining to the two bridges in Kampung Baru and Kampung Suyong, Shafie said he could not make any announcement yet, but promised to look into the requests of the village folks.
Kampung Lintang Penghulu Shahdan Shahari had taken the opportunity to submit a written request to Shafie about urgent needs of his people.
The needs comprised repairs of two bridges, namely Kampung Baru Bridge, which is already 30 years old, and Kampung Suyong Bridge, where the centre structure of the bridge had rot.
“We also hope the government will give allocation to do a complete re-wiring of our houses to prevent any untoward incidents,” said Shahdan, who has been a penghulu for the Melanau community of Balingian sub-district for the last 13 years.
On perception that the government was slow in implementing basic necessities such as water and electricity in Sarawak and Sabah, Shafie explained that actually the government did not purposely neglected the needs of people, but it needed time and money to carry out various projects for the rural people in the country.
“I know what the people are talking about when they say we have been slow in implementing thes basic necessities in Sarawak and Sabah. But do you know there are also poor people in the peninsular, especially in Pahang where the Orang Asli do not even have roads.
“What I am trying to say is that we in Malaysia are comparatively better off than many other developing countries such as India and Pakistan, who have achieved their independence much earlier than us.”
Shafie said the government now had been seeking other means such as using the latest technology to provide water and electricity to the rural areas throughout the country.
Citing ‘life saver’ mini water treatment units as an example, he said, it was United Kingdom’s nanotechnology that could filter both rain and river water to get rid of the germs, making it as good as bottled mineral water.
For electricity, Shafie said besides the provision of electricity through the grid system, his ministry also provided micro-hydro electricity dams and solar power panels as an alternative.
So far, he said, Sarawak had achieved 67 per cent of treated water supply to its people and 70 per cent of rural electrification scheme.
Besides providing basic necessities, his ministry had also been helping to built up human capital through the planting of oil palm and providing funds for the rural folks to set up small businesses to upgrade their livelihood.
“We do not want just provide them with basic necessities where they might not even be able to pay the bills. We want to provide training and education for them so that they can improve their livelihood.”
On the BN candidate Yussibnosh Balo, Shafie said Balo was a well qualified and highly dedicated person who could administer and provide service to the people.