IT is drawing nearer and nearer by the day and before we can say ‘Jack Robinson’, it will be upon us. Time and tide wait for no man.
In a number of the press statements made by the Premier of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, Year 2030 is mentioned as the target year by which Sarawak will be a well-developed state.
This objective was echoed early this month by one of his deputies, Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian, who had elaborated further, saying: “It is the aspiration of the government for Sarawak to be a developed state by 2030 driven by data and innovation, where everyone enjoys economic prosperity, social inclusivity and sustainable environment, in line with the objectives of Post Covid-20 Development Strategy 2030” (The Borneo Post, Dec 7, 2023).
Politicians the world over would like to leave to posterity something that the people will remember them by. Sometimes, they also embellish the target years with slogans. Slogans are easier to remember but targets remain targets unless they are converted into concrete government’s programmes fully implemented on the ground. But they will not last without sustained political will of the politicians in power.
Have we forgotten about hearing the slogan ‘Vision 2020’, by which the politicians in power were envisaging the whole of Malaysia as a fully developed nation by that year?
Now 2020 has come and gone and we are what we are, as you and I can see and feel for ourselves – still pretty short-sighted in many respects!
The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
We, the ordinary Sarawakians, are hoping that, come 2030, most of us would be better off economically than we are now.
And if the delightful future does not materialise? Can the failure be blamed on ‘unforeseen factors’ such as some disease pandemic, rampant corruption in high places, wars/racial/religious conflicts, economic depression, natural disasters, etc?
Most likely, the fault is never with the people who set the targets!
The people who run Sarawak in 2030 will simply set another target date and most likely come up with another inspiring slogan.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
Year 2030 has also been designated by the United Nations (UN) as the year by which all its member countries should have implemented its goals.
There are 17 global goals in the ‘TO DO LIST FOR THE PLANET’: No Poverty; Zero Hunger; Good Health and Well-Being; Quality Education; Gender Equality; Clean Water and Sanitation; Affordable and Clean Energy; Decent Work and Economic Growth; Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; Reduced Inequalities; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Responsible Consumption and Production; Climate Change; Life Below Water; Life on Land; Peace and Justice; Strong Institutions and Partnerships for the Goals.
At the beginning of the present century, the world body had set these 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for which its member countries should strive to achieve by 2030.
Many countries did not achieve the targets.
I do not know how closely aligned Malaysia’s own Five-Year Development Plans with those of the UN’s global goals.
My sources told me that for the first 15 years, until 2015, the underdeveloped and the developing countries had very little to show in terms of the results of implementation of measures proposed by the UN.
What happened was that developed countries became more developed, doubling as the worst emitters of carbon dioxide, while the poor countries became poorer, especially those at war with one another, or where people within one country were at each other’s throats.
So it looks like it will be necessary for the UN to extend the programme for another 15 years from the end of 2030.
Role of UNDP in Malaysia
In Malaysia, there exists an outfit called the UN Development Programme (UNDP). In the past, it held seminars for government and non-governmental activists. I attended several of such talks.
Oh yeah, talks, talks and talks…
I am not aware of anything concrete in the form of an income-generation or poverty-alleviation project in Sarawak, which has been carried out by or through the auspices of the Kuala Lumpur-based UNDP.
I suggest that the UN outfit might be more useful to us in Sarawak if it were also based in Kuching so that the state government’s economic planners might be handy for advice; the State Planning Unit is in a better position to know what most Sarawakians need.
Hitherto, only active members of certain Kuching-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) show some interest in this sort of work, but they are mainly volunteers. They spend their own money on air tickets and hotels when they go to hear yet another talkie-talk in Kuala Lumpur.
I am afraid, NDP has not done for Sarawak much in terms of dedicated programmes for the eradication of extreme poverty, zero hunger, quality education, good health and wellbeing, clean water and sanitation – all the basic needs of a state like ours.
Nor do I know of the collaboration between the state and UNDP in terms of plans as envisaged by the UN for Sarawak for the next decade.
The only ‘project’ that has something to do with the UNSDGs is the ‘Sustainable Cities’ initiated by the federal Ministry of Local Government Development. I understand that a number of local authorities in Sarawak have been included in this ‘roadmap’.
Details are yet to be disclosed to the public.
Goal number 1 on the UN’s list is ‘NO POVERTY’. Is it the poverty of the state as such, or is it the poverty of the community of people of Sarawak that we are concerned with here?
Is it the absolute poverty/extreme poverty or the relative poverty that we are talking about?
Extreme poverty in Sarawak would have been greatly solved, though not totally eradicated, had, for the past 50 years, the successive state governments the full control of the exploitation and ownership of our natural resources such as the petroleum and the products from under our territorial waters.
We have been deprived of this opportunity for the past 50 years.
There is no reason why there should be extreme poverty among the Sarawakians by now. If we could reach the stage above absolute poverty, it would be the beginning.
Relative poverty is not possible to achieve.