THE needs and aspirations of the people will be the main focus of the 2018 Sabah Budget which I will propose during the state legislative assembly sitting on Nov 17.
Without revealing too much, I can say the budget will be realistic and take into account a common desire to ensure Sabah continues to prosper and progress, propelled by an efficient and prudent government administration.
It will also complement the national 2018 Budget tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently as it has always been my policy as the chief minister to harness the strong state-federal ties that have helped bring much-needed assistance to Sabah.
To me, my duties as the chief minister and finance minister do not end at tabling and getting the budget approved by the august house. I have said this before and I will say it again: it’s all about the footwork in making sure the funds allocated are well spent.
The state administration I work with and fellow Sabah Barisan Nasional leaders know I am a person who prefers my actions to do the talking because we are duty-bound to the people who gave us the mandate to govern.
Every time I am briefed about development plans, updates on projects, reports on the many programmes and policies, I will demand a progress report or even complaints of shortcomings and look into the finer details.
I feel disappointed when approved allocations fail to reach their targets and I am sure it hurts the people more. We should not allow situations where federal funds are allocated, but taps remain dry in rural areas and poles are planted everywhere but no electricity is supplied. All these are wrong. These are shortcomings that I will address.
This is why, among others, I made it a point to speak to Federal Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently, after the national budget was presented, and told him that it was important for his ministry to work with the state government because we know what needs to be done on the ground.
On my part, I will also make sure federal allocations for the state are monitored, to ensure greater transparency unlike before.
The federal budget for 2018 is a comprehensive financial plan, which takes into account the needs of the people because it is inclusive and realistic, covering all levels of society, including opposition-led states.
The budget shows the government does not compromise in matters concerning the people’s wellbeing. I am grateful Sabah is not left out of the equation.
The RM1 billion allocation for dilapidated schools in Sabah, the budget for the expansion of Sandakan airport, rural infrastructure, people’s housing programmes and RM250 million for the Eastern Sabah Security Command would greatly help to ensure the state continues to prosper and maintain security.
The feasibility study on the construction of a bridge to connect Sabah and Labuan is a strong positive move as it is the first time such a plan was announced during the budget presentation. A bridge would definitely spur the economy on both ends of the bridge.
Ever since I took office in 2003, I made it a point to visit the districts regularly and bring along ministers as well as top government officials, from state and federal agencies, so that we could see and understand problems for ourselves and take immediate action when necessary.
This year, I have visited many districts, met with district officers, community leaders and the people in the villages to listen to their needs, problems, desires and hopes.
All these would be turned into numbers and plans in the state budget, which will be unveiled soon. This year a budget of RM3.78 billion was approved with a surplus of RM32.83 million. It is the third consecutive surplus budget, and this year, it is projected that revenue collection would be RM3.817 billion.
Once this is passed, then the task will be laid out for the government administration, elected representatives and leaders at all levels to translate the budget into working plans.
I have a couple of weeks to fine-tune the budget and by the grace of Allah, share with the people the plan that is the product of their needs and aspirations.
Tan Sri Musa Aman is Sabah chief minister