Tuesday, August 11

Heed Soon Koh’s words, spend wisely, Baru tells Sarawak government

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Baru Bian

KUCHING: The government must ensure that the state spends within its means in its development planning, which may entail cancellation of projects such as the Second Trunk Road and reallocation of funds, says Selangau MP Baru Bian.

On the latest announcement of the RM300-million Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid (BKSS) 3.0 package, he agreed that there were many Sarawakians who needed assistance to overcome their hardship, but Sarawak’s resources should be guarded carefully and the government’s spending must be commensurate with the need, not recklessly driven by political agenda.

“A proper check-and-balance mechanism must be put in place to ensure the funds are properly disbursed and accounted for.

“What is lacking is an accounting and auditing mechanism on the spending of the three stimulus packages that have been announced – on the financial strains to the state, the impact on the recipients and whether there is wastage and mismanagement of the funds,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Baru, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman, voiced his agreement with Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh about the state’s budget and development plans to be reviewed in light of the grim financial situation it was facing as a result of the economic impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With 15 years of experience as our Second Finance Minister, his (Soon Koh’s) wisdom in this matter should be taken seriously.

“The shortfall in the realised and realistic revenue for 2019 and 2020 of RM8.026 billion together with the accumulated expenditures of RM25 billion in the 2020 budget, gives rise to valid concerns,” he said.

Baru noted that any funding through Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) would affect the state’s reserves and as pointed out by Soon Koh, it might have negative effect on the state’s credit ratings.

“The state’s reserves should be prudently guarded, instead of being used to fund superfluous projects such as the Second Trunk Road.

“The Pan Borneo Highway and the Coastal Road are being constructed and to add another road running parallel to the Pan Borneo Highway is irresponsible and reckless,” he said.

Baru reminded how Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How had raised issues concerning the haste of the government in announcing the Second Trunk Road, and the questionable planning and costing of the project. Baru pointed out that if the funds were available, they would be better utilised to connect the interior areas of Sarawak like Ulu Baram, Bario, Ba Kelalan and Ulu Rajang to spur economic growth in these areas.

“My ‘Vision of Hope’ gives emphasis to infrastructure, but taking into account the needs of the people. It has been proven in countries such as China that in order to lift the people out of poverty, good road infrastructure must be provided first – increased agricultural and economic activities would follow once the people are given the connections.

“There are many areas in the hinterland that can be opened up with proper roads and it is time that the government provide this basic facility to them,” he said.

Baru believed that now more than ever, the state must be prudent in financial management as the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic had wreaked havoc in the economy.

“The government should to heed the former Second Finance Minister’s call to review the planned spending of the government and re-consider the projects to be implemented – bearing in mind the need for priorities and strategies to be adjusted as we face the restoration of our people’s lives and livelihood,” he added.