Chief Minister Musa Aman, also holding the finance portfolio, presented the annual Sabah State Budget for 2015 at an estimated revenue collection of RM 3.862 billion, a revenue surplus of RM 49 million. For the first time since 2008, the Sabah State Government has projected a surplus.
Presenting the annual budget in the State Legislative Assembly yesterday, for a record 12th time as Chief Minister, Musa said that for 2015 the state government proposed to spend RM3.813 billion and the budget rolls out its growth and human development trajectory focusing on poverty eradication, enhancing quality of life and development of youth and women.
This budget has provided considerable emphasis on infrastructure development and investment without losing sight of welfare and social protection. In other words, his attempt is to put economic growth on an even keel with human development.
The budget also has hyperboles and ambitious targets; however they are reasonably well matched by appropriate allocations and policy thrusts.That Musa wants to benchmark the state against the best in Asia, although a bit hyperbolic, is vivid in the budget document. Therefore, substantial focus is on sustainable development. Some RM234.6 million will be channelled to various agencies in developing human capital involving the youth.
The government’s aspiration and pledge is to continue with the development and to provide a solid foundation for the people’s well-being and State’s prosperity for the benefit of future generations. And to ensure continued development for the State, the 2015 budget objectives are dedicated to upgrading basic infrastructures and public utilities, developing youth and human capital, eradication of poverty and enhancement of the people’s quality life, as well as balancing regional development.
To achieve these objectives, Musa stressed the State government would implement:
(i) Strengthening of revenue collection and broadening of revenue sources;
(ii) Planning expenditure in an optimal way (that is spending with the greatest impact);
(iii) Focusing on sectoral and sustainable development, and
(iv) Improving delivery systems towards achieving targets.
Musa even said that in previous years, Sabah’s resources and expenditures were managed in a prudent, effective and efficient manner in accordance with the financial regulations. And for the year 2013, 20 ministries, departments, statutory bodies and state agencies have managed to achieve a 4-star rating. This has made Sabah being recognised as having the best record of financial management in Malaysia for two consecutive years.
Although RM98.63 million has been allocated to Department of Irrigation and Drainage for flood mitigation programmes its hardly enough after seeing the floods this last October and the losses and inconvenience suffered by the residents in the affected areas. As a geologist, I know Sabah is, geologically speaking, very young, causing huge soil movements in which landslides and flooding becomes the norm after much rain. Highly dynamic physical processes dominate the mountainous terrain and therefore, implementing infrastructure development projects is a challenge and the cost to built and maintain is more costlier than other states.
In fact, the Federal Government should take note of this and should provide Special Funds to the Sabah State Government. Although a total of RM1.250 billion has been allocated for the provision of public infrastructure and utilities in this budget, of this RM180 million is allocated for the construction and maintenance programmes of urban and rural roads; slope repair, construction and replacement of old bridges, but this is hardly enough.
On information and communication technology (ICT) development, Musa has allocated RM71.36 million. Musa knows that our generation is the generation of “digital natives”, very much dependent on ICT and technology is a necessity in daily life. This allocation will be used to fully support the development of ICT in the state. Again this is an attempt to mobilize the youth in Sabah for a stronger future generation.
For tourism, Musa has allocated RM143.13 million which will be provided to promote and enhance the tourism sector in Sabah as the State Government has set a target of 3.7 million tourist arrivals with an expected tourism receipts amounting to RM 7.382 billion. Eventhough the tourism industry is getting a beating due to the kidnappings by Abu Sayaff and the MH370 mysterious disappearance, Sabah still recorded 1,889,301 tourist as at July 2014, an increase of 2.8% compared to the same period last year.
Lastly, agriculture, the main source of Sabah’s socio economic stability, was allocated a total of RM336.50 million. And for cultivating a better reading habit Musa has given RM39.28 million to the Sabah State Library.
All people-oriented schemes started during the 12-year tenure of Musa Aman would continue, many of them receiving higher allocations and grants. This was the best budget Musa could present in the present turbulent times.Sitting at his desk in the Chief Minister’s Office, Musa said that when he first took charge of the state’s economy, he thought that the sky was the limit. A similar ambition today after 12-year tenure would most definitely serve Sabah well.