Doubts on zero poverty
Local leaders question poverty program at UNDP roundtable meet here
KOTA KINABALU: Several local leaders have questioned and cast doubts over the State Government's ability to achieve zero poverty in the State by 2010 during a roundtable dialogue, which involved the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) here.
Their views were among the numerous perspectives and differing opinions that were raised during the discussion on poverty organised by UNDP and Universiti Malaya's Development and Poverty Research Centre, to review existing policies and discuss Sabah's way to overcome the problem.
With local leaders and NGOs taking the opportunity to air their views on the issue, they all reached one point of common ground -is it possible for Sabah to achieve its target of zero poverty by 2010?
Sabah has the highest poverty rate in Malaysia, according to Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Rural Development Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan at the dialogue.
Sook Assemblyman Tan Sri Joseph Kurup went straight to the point during the dialogue, questioning the State Government's ability in achieving the goal.
He said despite having numerous programs and a vision geared towards poverty eradication, the State Government only has three years remaining to the target.
"Residents in rural areas are not only poor but also do not have sufficient health and education facilities. Hence, is the Government giving its full attention to this problem?" he questioned.
Moyog Assemblyman Philip Lasimbang also raised the issue of a lack of commitment from local leaders to gaining a better understanding of the various problems faced by the people in their respective areas.
He said it is important for local leaders to have an intimate knowledge of the problems faced by the people to fully appreciate the reasons leading to their situation of poverty and how they are to help them.
"For example, the Federal Government has allocated RM800,000 (per constituency) in an effort to combat poverty but if nobody goes down to the ground and approaches the residents, then we will not know the problems faced by the poverty-stricken people," he said.
Kadazandusun Foundation deputy president Henrynus Amin echoed Philip's sentiments, saying that to support the Government's poverty eradication efforts, local leaders must go down to the ground to understand the problems faced by the people and later fora policy aimed at overcoming those problems.
In reply to the various opinions raised during the dialogue, Deputy Chief Minister cum Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan stressed that the burden of responsibility does not rest solely on the shoulders of the Government.
"Efforts towards poverty eradication requires a shared responsibility from all parties, which includes the Government, NGOs and elected representatives themselves.
"We realise that it is not easy to solve this problem ... it is not something that we can solve in the blink of an eye. However, through strong co-operation we will be able to overcome this problem," he said.
The dialogue themed Overcoming Challenges and Devising Sustainable Strategies andProgramsfor Poverty Alleviation in Sabah.
"Sabah has a very unique biodiversity, however it can be lost in 20 years because people are getting more short-sighted and greedy," Sachs said.
He said Sabah has an incredibly rapid population increase which is doubling in every 40 years, which is one of the main reasons of growing poverty in the State.
In 2004, Sabah recorded the highest poverty and hardcore poor rates, and distribution of households in poverty, followed by Terengganu and Kelantan.
According to UNDP statistics, Sabah still lags markedly behind the rest of other states in the country in development outcomes despite a robust economic growth rates, particularly from tourism sector.
"Sustainable development is not easy for the hardcore poor but there is no other alternative," he said.
UNDP Malaysia Resident Representative, Dr Richard Leete said the benefits of growth appeared to have been disproportionately distributed to the richer population. Other participants were Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Rural Development, Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan, University of Malaya Centre for Poverty and Development Studies Director, Associate Professor Dr Sulochana Nair, Director of Distribution Section, Economic Planning Unit, Mat Noor Nawi and Vice-President of SUHAKAM, Tan Sri Simon Sipaun.
Pairin said the target of eliminating poverty could be achieved in another three years if the public and all agencies of Government do their part.
"The target hopefully can be achieved by the year 2010," he added.