KOTA KINABALU (TUE): The Madani Budget 2023 which was presented on Friday, 26 February afternoon received a mixture of responses from various groups in the society. The CEO of Institute for Development Studies (Sabah) (IDS), Datuk Dr. Ts. Ramzah Dambul, has also shared his views on the budget.

Datuk Ramzah praised the spirit of the budget, which is very much people-centric and strongly driven by human values. “The principal end-game of the budget are to nurture and promote inclusion, institutional reform, and social justice. These values definitely sit well with the most prevailing grass-root sentiments at the moment.” he said. Therefore, looking at this point of view, this budget does seem very progressive. However, from the perspective of marginal Borneo, the budget is still carrying the same old narrative, which has reigned for decades, he added.

Datuk Ramzah further highlighted the issue of giving too much emphasis on the societal socioeconomic gap, and not enough attention on the regional disparity. He said the overarching narrative of the budget is loud and clear, that is, towards a more inclusive Malaysia, a more transparent administrative system and addressing, once and for all, any kind of gaps. “In approaching the issues of inclusivity, transparency, and disparity, the narrative is still too skewed towards questions of socioeconomic class, which is primarily about the gap between B40, M40 and T20,” he said. Therefore, the entire distribution strategies at the sectoral and ministerial levels will certainly seek merely to address this income disparity.

Datuk Ramzah also stated that he agreed this so-called societal gap is very critical and important. However, this status-quo approach would not provide any added value or innovative solution to tackle the long-standing 60-year disparity between Borneo and Peninsular. He further stated, it is important to remember that the issue of disparity in Malaysia is not only about vulnerable groups; but also, about vulnerable regions. “Try to imagine the fate of vulnerable people in this vulnerable region. Their vulnerability will be twice as bad,” he said. He acknowledged that there is a special allocation given to Sabah and Sarawak, but it is only 3.1% (12.1 billion) of the entire national budget (388.1 billion). This is not sufficient to cure the marginalised Borneo which has been persistent for 60 years, he said.

According to Datuk Ramzah, the funds should be distributed equitably according to needs and priorities. “The underprivileged society and regional disparity are ever present in Borneo, a pressing issue that has to be addressed urgently. The first point of action is to look into the contrasts within the regional narrative context to fully understand and strategize a holistic approach to address the glaring disparity. This in hand will realign the societal imbalances faced within the Bornean region,” he further elaborated, stressing that the top narrative for the “civilian” budget should focus on bridging regional disparities, to address a wider range of development issues that are inclusive and comprehensive.

In the national budget, sectoral and ministerial, Datuk Ramzah suggested for the regional disparity narrative to be the focal point as the leading narrative for all main Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), specifically in drafting merits and criteria for all strategies. “By amplifying the regional disparity as the main narrative, this will shift any future efforts and strategies to consider a widespread solution, instead of limiting the focus on societal gaps between the B40, M40 and T20 communities,” he further explained.

In stressing on the national budget, Datuk Ramzah stated that he is not specifically pushing for only Sabah and Sarawak agenda, but on mobilising a mechanism that is fair and equal for all Malaysian states. “As not everyone is standing on an equal level field, we are pushing for Bornean leverage, for Sabah and Sarawak to finally be at par with its Peninsular counterparts,” he said, highlighting that the presence of economic marginalization has a massive potential to jeopardize unity and harmony of the people.

On an optimistic note, Datuk Ramzah expresses that the Madani Budget 2023 gives a sense of hopefulness to the rakyat that the harsh effects of regional disparity are avoidable with the right strategies. “The time has come for the 60-year-old misery of the Borneo community to be given priority treatment, which is timely and appropriate,” he concluded.



Share this article!