KUCHING: Putrajaya is reminded not to shirk its obligation to provide quality facilities for students and teachers in Sarawak.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who gave this reminder, said education is still under the purview of the federal government although the Sarawak government has taken the initiative to repair dilapidated schools in the state.
“The Sarawak government does not want to be accused anymore of neglecting our schools, particularly those in the rural areas. Although education is a federal matter, I have decided that we will spend RM82 million next year for it (education).
“This will be used to continue with the programme to rebuild rundown schools including the provision of clean water and electricity supplies, for the benefit of our students and teachers.
“We are taking the initiative to repair these dilapidated schools ourselves using our own money but this does not mean the federal government is relieved of its duty to ensure that educational facilities in Sarawak are in good condition,” he said at the ‘Let’s Rebuild St Teresa’ grand dinner here last Friday.
His text of speech was read out by Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dato Sri Michael Manyin.
Abang Johari said Sarawak was getting only 7.94 per cent of the total national development budget next year compared to 9.42 per cent this year.
He lamented that the 7.94 per cent ‘is insufficient to accelerate the pace of development in Sarawak’.
“What is even more disheartening is that there is no specific mention in the national budget that the federal government is setting aside any allocation to repair and rebuild the 1,020 dilapidated schools in Sarawak.”
Pointing out that Sarawak has a big landmass and a scattered population, Abang Johari said, ‘We need comparatively larger allocations than other states to develop Sarawak’.
He said he had just tabled a RM9.1 billion State Budget 2019, a record allocation, and an expected record income for Sarawak next year.
“Putrajaya has not been generous to us of late although they are happily tapping away into our oil and gas resources to fill the national coffer.
“We are left with no choice but to look for a new source of income based on the power accorded to Sarawak in the Federal Constitution,” he added.
The chief minister said this was why he decided to impose a five per cent sales tax on petroleum and petroleum products that are meant for export as new sources of revenue for Sarawak.
Sarawak would expect an extra income of RM3.9 billion from this new revenue stream, he said.
“And this shall go back to the people through a long list of infrastructure and utilities projects that we have lined up for implementation all over Sarawak,” added Abang Johari.