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Feb 9, 2008


'250,000 Chinese need help'

Kota Kinabalu: The Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) claims some 250,000 Chinese in Sabah are living along the poverty margin.

Its President Datuk Sari Nuar said in a statement that one should not be misled into thinking that since facilities in urban areas where most members of the community reside are found to be satisfactory, then all is well.

He reckoned that only about 50,000 Chinese could be considered living in the comfort zone while the rest are struggling along the poverty level margin.

It was not stated how FCAS arrived at the figures.

However, Sari pointed out that although the Government had abolished school fees for primary and secondary students, an average wage earner still had to cough up about RM200 per child per month in terms of other "fees" such as for transportation, stationary, extra-curriculum activities and food.

With an average three school children per wage earner, he said the average wage of RM1,000 in urban areas would indeed reduce the person to the poverty margin.

Hence, there are still a lot of urban Chinese who cannot afford to send their children for higher education nor own houses and are struggling with poor diets.

Towards this end, Sari proposed that even those earning RM1,000 should be classified as being the below poverty level and be entitled to the special assistance packages from the Federal and State governments. By the same token, he said rural poverty must be addressed urgently, adding that many rural areas such as Paitan, Nabawan, Ulu Marudu, Ranau, Tambunan and Ulu Kinabatangan are devoid of the very basic amenities.

Based on the three million population of Sabah, a 23 per cent poverty rate means that more than 600,000 are classified as abject poor, he contended.

On another matter, he hoped the one-stop centre to be set up to facilitate the overall implementation of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) would be free from political interference.

He said the idea of the one-stop centre was commendable but it must be run by qualified and experienced professionals and not political appointees.

"It must be run professionally and devoid of people of conflicting interests. The body should not be a place for members to lobby for negotiated contracts.

"It must be genuinely served by members whose collective decisions are based on meritorious considerations," he said in support of the SDC.

The SDC Blueprint states that a new body to be called Sabah Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) would be set up following the legislation of a new Enactment to ensure all the programmes in the SDC are implemented smoothly.

Sari also proposed the Free Trade Zone in the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP) to be drastically restructured to emulate the success story of Kuching Pending Free Trade Zone where investors are given a rebate of RM1 per square feet of land out of the RM2 per square feet charged after completion of the project.

"The monetary incentive and the low price of the factory site could induce foreign investors who benefit the State through the creation of employment opportunities for the locals and the considerable purchasing power generated from the salary earners, and also the supporting services such as contract workers, transportation and a whole host of other business activities," he said.

He added the State Government should at first be the facilitator to invest in infrastructure to induce the investors because the benefits to the local people and supporting business activities would also be beneficial to the State Government.

According to him, the present high price of land at the Free Trade Zone in KKIP was a deterrent rather than incentive for potential investors when they had a choice of neighbouring Sarawak and Vietnam.

Sari also suggested the Sapangar Container Port be made an international port so that foreign vessels could call direct, especially from China as the regional hub.

There must be other supporting services such as goods handling machinery, adequate warehousing space, dockyard facilities for repair of vessels and skilled port personnel, he added. The Government should also consider adopting the open door banking policy to allow other foreign banks that could finance viable projects to set up businesses in the SDC.

"Investors must be given more option to apply for financing facilities," he said. In this respect, he urged the Chinese community in Sabah to actively participate in the SDC and not "to be complacent as by-standers of the massive development that is envisaged in the development corridor".

Sari said the vision to eradicate poverty in Sabah through the rigorous implementation of the SDC in 18 years was commendable.

"It is a different kettle of fish altogether in line with the other three Economic Growth Regions in Pahang, Kelantan and Johore regions already launched earlier by the Prime Minister," he said.


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