KUCHING: Sarawakians must give credit to the federal government for taking the significant step under Budget 2020 to increase the amount of Special Grant under Section 112D of the Federal Constitution for the state.
Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who said this, pointed out that this constitutional adjustment has been long overdue as the last time it was adjusted was 50 years ago in 1969, even though the adjustment should have been made every five years.
“I am most pleased, and I am sure that all Sarawakians share my sentiment, that the federal government has finally initiated and carried out an adjustment in the Special Grant,” he said.
See, however, said even though the allocation for Sarawak has been increased from RM32 million to RM53 million annually for the next five years, representing a 65 per cent raise, the adjustment was only RM21 million which would add little to the state’s coffers, especially when the state is embarking on an ambitious development plan.
“However, we must give credit to the Pakatan Harapan federal government for taking this significant step which the former Barisan Nasional government had failed (to do) for the last 50 years,” he said in a statement, in response to the tabling of Budget 2020 by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in Parliament yesterday.
Lim had announced that the federal government intended to increase the financial grants disbursed to Sabah and Sarawak as provided for under the current Malaysia Agreement 1963.
This is in addition to Sabah and Sarawak receiving the largest portion of Development Expenditures amounting to RM5.2 billion and RM4.4 billion, respectively.
Included in the federal grants is the Special Grant under Section 112D of the Federal Constitution, which has not been reviewed and remained unchanged since 1969. The rate set by the previous federal administration was RM26.7 million for Sabah and RM16 million for Sarawak per annum.
“For the first time, the government proposes to increase the rate, doubling it for 2020 to RM53.4 million for Sabah and RM32 million for Sarawak. The government plans to double the rate again to RM106.8 million to Sabah and RM64 million for Sarawak within five years,” said Lim in his speech.
See, meanwhile, said with the federal government showing its sincerity in helping Sarawak and Sabah, he is optimistic that rights and privileges under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, particularly autonomous powers in the various fields, will be achieved and that those concerning legislative, administrative and fiscal powers and authorities will be devolved to both states.
He also said Budget 2020 had shown that it is focused on the development of the rural areas of Malaysia, particularly in the provision of basic amenities and infrastructural development.
He singled out the Ministry of Rural Development as having higher allocation for 2020 with RM8.415 billion compared to RM6.223 billion for 2019, along with the Ministry of Works at RM8.032 billion compared to RM6.24 billion allocated for 2019.
“I am hopeful that the state and federal government will discard their political differences and that they will all put in serious concerted efforts together to make sure that Sarawak will see robust economic and infrastructural development in the next year, particularly for the rural regions of Sarawak, and that all Sarawakians will have a fairer share of the country’s wealth and significant improvement in our standards of living overall.
“Indeed, from all the federal ministries, it will benefit Sarawak tremendously if we can all work together to ensure that the allocations for the various ministries are spent through successful implementation of projects,” See said.