MIRI: The Rurum Kelabit Association is calling on Putrajaya to continue the transportation subsidy scheme implemented by the former Federal administration that helped stabilise the prices of essential goods and fuel in rural Sarawak.
The association’s Miri branch chairman, Dick Bala, said his community members in Miri and Bario were asking what would happen to the scheme with the new Pakatan Harapan Federal Government in Putrajaya.
“There are a lot of uncertainties for us rural folks following the change in government in Putrajaya.
“During the Najib administration, Sarawak was given a lot of allocations as well as a big transportation subsidy for delivering essential food, fuel, cooking gas and cement to rural settlements.
“If not for the Government footing these transport costs, the prices of these items in rural Sarawak will be three times more expensive than in urban Sarawak.
“Sarawak needs a lot of subsidies.
“This is because this state is the largest in the country in terms of size, the biggest contributor to the national income in several key economic sectors and also because we are among those worst-hit by high costs of living.
“We want the new Government to continue all these good projects for Sarawak,” Bala said.
He said that as an example, Putrajaya must give more funds to subsidise goods and services here to lessen the burden of the “small people” who are from the poorer section of society.
In the previous Budget, the Federal Government gave Sarawak the biggest portion of the total allocation meant for standardising the prices of essential goods in rural districts.
Out of the RM210mil Putrajaya spend nationwide in 2017 for the price standardisation programmes, Sarawak was allotted RM109mil.
That is more than 50% of the total national allocation, according to the then-Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Cooperatives Affair Ministry secretary-general Datuk Basarudin Sahali.
The move by the Federal Government to allocate RM109mil to subsidise transportation costs was aimed at ensuring rural folks get the same prices as those in the urban centres.
The subsidy was used to hire 116 transport companies throughout Sarawak to deliver essential daily goods to 788 rural outposts.
Bala said Sarawak got the lion’s share because of its size and geographical complexities.
“The roads and other infrastructure here are still lacking thus the need to hire more transporters at different locations.
“Sarawak has more than 5,000 rural settlements statewide.
“For this coming Budget, Putrajaya must also consider giving more subsidies to cushion the cost of air transportation within Sarawak and between Sarawak and the peninsula.
“Putrajaya must also consider reviving subsidies for rice, sugar, flour and other necessities in Sarawak to reduce the market price that has risen a lot over the past year.
“We in Sarawak eagerly await good news from the new Government,” he said.
Bala also urged Pakatan Harapan Sarawak to fight for all these from Putrajaya.