Monday, September 8, 2008

The Forgotten Bumiputras Of Sarawak

Budget 2009 - Not So Friendly To Sarawak's Longhouse Folks

Take a trip to Sarawak and spend time at a real longhouse and talk to the inhabitants. Not the one advertised in a tourist brochure but a true bona-fide longhouse. Listen to what they have to say and you would realize that the 2009 Budget has not addressed the simple things these folks need. The high cost of fuel and the high cost of goods.

The main income for many in this communities that live in the interior of Sarawak can be broken into two(2) - Labour and Farming.

Most young men find employment on off-shore oil platforms, commercial ships plying the Asian region or as contract workers in the construction industry. They work as mechanics, deck-hands and construction workers, earning enough to support their families back home in the longhouses of Sarawak. The tax-cuts mentioned in 2009 Budget do not benefit them. In fact, when examined closely such tax-cuts have no relevance to them.

Farming palm oil and tapping rubber form the major crux of income for the modern rural farmer in Sarawak. Those who have land have gained tremendously from harvesting oil palm and tapping rubber trees. It has subsequently raised the living standards of a many families in the longhouse. Again these are small time farmers who sell to middle men just to earn enough to give their families a comfortable life. The 2009 Budget has no direct relevance to them.

What has direct relevance to these people is the price of pumped fuel. Souring fuel prices have cut the income of these longhouse folks by half or two thirds what it was before. High fuel prices means the cost of goods also goes up and this was not addressed (clearly) in the 2009 budget and this is where the budget tabled on the 29th of August 2008 has even less relevance.

The 2009 Budget has not addressed the plight of the little folks. The budget is proposing to pour in 3.3 billion ringgit into Sarawak for the development of roads. Road construction but where is the money for poverty eradication? How could road construction help when the cost of plying these roads is high?

Yes, there is money for development but how much of it will trickle down into the pockets of low-income earners? No much by my reckoning. Even the twenty ringgit waiver for electricity bills would not be eligible for the modern longhouse folks where television, stereo systems and refrigerators are now a norm.

The 2009 Budget benefits those living in the peninsula (toll cuts, electricity bill exemptions, tax reductions) and yet the folks in the longhouses of Sarawak, who don't pay toll charges, won't be eligible for taxation and still have to pay for electricity, will have to contend with high fuel prices, higher cost of living and low commodity prices.

Longhouse folks are clearly not civil servants so most of what the 2009 Budget proposes do not apply to them. Neither are longhouse folks part of private industries so those incentives for up-lifting industries, outlined in the 2009 Budget holds little significance for them.

So what does that leave the simple folks of the longhouse?

High fuel prices and high cost of goods.

Back to square one. The 2009 Budget clearly did not take into account their needs nor address the fundamental wants of any hard-working individual. Such folks are easily forgotten when money is handed out as "sweeteners" to appease an elite few.

So I am left wondering what the following year will have in store for my relatives living in a longhouse in the Baram region. They live on the strength of their resolve to provide for their families without being given a passing glance by the government they help keep in power. And that itself is a human tragedy. (By MACLEAN PATRICK/ MySinchew)

( The opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of MySinchew )

MySinchew 2008.09.04


Anonymous said...

I am agree on this, a 15 cents cut on petrol price didn't reach the interior part of sarawak.
Even when the goverment decided to give rebate, they overlooked these farmers in the interior part of sarawak which depend on petrol for transportation and power generator.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you. There are other forms of handouts which these rural farmers will get. The government is already reducing the the import taxes for fertilizers. Not only that the government through the Agriculture Department are actually giving them subsidies in the form of other inputs apart from fertilizer. Please conduct a search and ask the Agriculture Department about this. Apart from that the rural dwellers are going getting projects from that RM3.3 billion which was announced by the Prime Minister in the form of infrastructure developments. Under this infrastructure development projects many village roads will be build. Ofcourse the Prime Minister just cannot read every single road that will be build remember he was only given 45 minutes to deliver the budget speech. For more detail I guess you check with the EPU. On top of that the rural folks will be getting other perks. The rural schools will still get their dues, again for the detail ask the Minister of Education. The PM again don't have the time to read all the details. But if you really want to know go and ask the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development. They can provide you all the detail. As for the rebates, my brother who lives in the villages got his rebates and from three of his cars while I got only one. So, I feel what you wrote about rural folks being forgotten is because you have never been to a rural area and you don't really know what is happening.

Adam Kiyung said...

Dear 2nd Anonymous,

Do you think that all the rural folks can go to the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development? I even went with some of my relatives to the Agricultural Dept. last week, and all they gave us was a shrug and that familiar "don't know" phrase.

And I guess now you'd probably tell the rural folks to write a complain or see the higher authority about this officer's attitude, eh?

Just because your brother live in the kampung and managed to get a rebate, it doesn't mean this represents the whole situation among the rural communities.

And before you accuse the writer of never been to the rural areas and do not knowing the 'real situation', I suggest you too do some work or research in the rural areas before referring to one or two instances related to you.

Anonymous said...

Hey friend
Those rural folks don't have any car.
The mode of transport are by boat, i myself originate from rural area, commonlah buddy how do they claim rebate if they don't even have any vehicle.

Agriculture subsidies, uhhhh!! a waste.

TheWhisperer said...

Sabah and Sarawak bumiputras are just namesake status given to them. The true fact is that they have always been treated as 2nd class bumiputras.

It is cheaper for them to play money politics in these 2 states than in the Peninsular.

So wake up to this hurtful truth... Just compare your 2nd class bumiputra status to theirs.

All of you have been shortchanged for decades. Its time to change. So help us all here. What do all of you have to lose? Isn't it bad enough? All of Us have more to gain with the Change..

Anonymous said...

Petrol cuts does not have a benefit on the poor simple rural communities as virtually none of these folks living in the interior owns a vehicle.Only the well to do who owns cars get the rebate but the majority does not even own a motorbike.

Infrastructure projects like roads and bridges do not have direct benefit to the poor residents in interior. This helps only the rich living on the fringe of the interior.