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Disparity in Sabah's development: Closing the gap in the 12th Malaysia Plan

2 Oct 2021

WISDOM Foundation calls on the Federal Government to decentralise the planning approaches in coming up with the Five Yearly Malaysian Development Plan to accelerate socio-economic development in the Borneo territories namely Sabah and Sarawak.

The recently tabled 12th Malaysia Plan (RMK12) in the Malaysian Parliament is a continuation of efforts to bring about progress and development in Sabah and Sarawak as envisioned by our forefathers during the formation of Malaysia in 1963. That is the spirit of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63) among others.

The 5th Yearly Malaysian Plan will remain as just another plan with little positive transformation in Sabah Sarawak as the approach to the planning has been made in the same way as it has since the formation of Malaysia.

In the last 58 years, the plan was created by Putrajaya officers who have not been immersed in the Sabahan and Sarawakian culture and way of life and thus, will not be able to make decisions based on the locals’ perspectives.

This is evidenced by the fact that Sabah and Sarawak are very rich in natural resources and yet, the people, especially Sabahans, are the poorest in the country, living in the least developed state.

Sabah is the state with the highest incidence of absolute poverty at 25.3%, almost double the percentage of the state of Sarawak which is 12.9% in 2020 according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM).

WISDOM Foundation firmly believes that decentralisation is needed to change this predicament.

For example, Pasir Gudang Industrial Estate is able to become its own authority and collect taxes to do its own development, a measure which can also be executed in Sabah’s Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park.

Unfortunately, Sabah still has to borrow funds from the Federal Government in order to upgrade their industrial park’s infrastructure.

Basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, logistic and transportation and broadband internet connectivity must be given top priority and yet while the concern is mentioned in the plan, we are not seeing the eventual resolution of problems, particularly water supplies.

We must begin with the end in mind to address this chronic ailment, the 12th Malaysia Plan must be executed with the least developed state in mind. We hope that in the Midterm Review of the RMK12 Putrajaya and the Sabah State government will ensure that the necessary funding is made available to completely resolve water and electricity supplies as well as internet connectivity and logistics issues in the port and harbour.

Whatever it is WISDOM Foundation strongly urges the Federal Government to execute the 12th Malaysia Plan to meet the set objectives of national unity and inclusivity, prosperity and sustainability from the perspectives and needs of the state’s inhabitants to truly build a prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable Malaysia based on the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia.

Wilfred Madius Tangau

Executive Chairperson

WISDOM Foundation


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