Tuesday, January 8, 2008


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.


Family planning can improve economic status of poor

Family planning is a necessary tool to improve the economic status of the poor, said a senior officer with the United Nations (UN).
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, said research carried out on poverty among the rural communities showed that it is prevalent with families that have up to nine or 10 children.
"Frankly, this is one of the factors that is contributing to the problem of poverty currently faced in Sabah," he said at a press conference after a round­table dialogue organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Universiti Malaya's Development and Poverty Research Centre at Le Meridien Hotel here yesterday.
Sachs, who is also an economist, stressed that their studies confirmed that poverty eradication efforts are hampered by families that do not practise family planning.
"It is a similar situation in countries such as South Africa and Somalia where the respective Governments of those countries are finding it hard to stem poverty due to families with many children.
"There need to be cooperation not only from the State Government, related agencies, NGOs and leaders but also the local populace in reevaluating and changing their lifestyle, including implementing a family planning system," he said.
Sachs revealed that some 23 percent of poor household heads in Sabah are below the national poverty income line and the poverty rate for their children stands at 42 percent with one in every five children aged six and above had never gone to school.
UNDP representative to Malaysia, Dr Richard Letee, noted that another contributing factor to poverty in Sabah is an imbalance in the State's population growth.
"This requires us to form a pro-poverty investment and increase data collection to identify those who are truly poor. We also need to find answers as to why they are still poor and how we can overcome this problem," he said.
Sachs, however, commended the State Government for implementing strategies and programmes to address the issue of poverty here, compared to other countries he has visited where he said have no clear direction in eradicating poverty.
"I have travelled to many countries that are faced with poverty and they have no strategy for poverty eradication compared to Sabah and Malaysia in general. I have seen the Government's commitment towards tackling this problem and I hope it can achieve the target of zero poverty in Sabah by 2010," he said.
Sachs is here to lead a five-day mission, visiting several poverty-stricken areas in the State such as Pulau Banggi and Kudat.
Currently serving as director at the Earth Institute in Columbia University, he also chairs the Prof DiRaja Ungku Aziz Poverty Research under Universiti Malaya and has authored several books, including "The End of Poverty".
Sachs meanwhile vilified uncontrolled deforestation and illegal logging, which he said has destroyed the State's natural environment.
He said Sabah has one of the most beautiful and diverse eco-systems in the world, but faces a real threat of destruction from such irresponsible activities.
"When these forests are cut, the species and vegetation are also destroyed. Even aquatic species will be destroyed because of the pollution caused by illegal logging.
"Personally, I am attracted by the eco-system and biodiversity found in Sabah and this encourages me to bring my family and my compatriots to visit Sabah in future ... Sabah's rich natural eco-system must be preserved because it is a very important product to attract tourists," he said.
Sachs stressed that it is imperative for Sabah to follow the lead of countries such as Norway and Costa Rica which go to great lengths to preserve their natural eco-system as they realise it is a major draw for foreign tourists.
"Scientists and specialists must continuously monitor the situation to ensure deforestation and illegal logging can be brought under control," he said.


THANKSGIVING... Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman together with Head of State Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Ahmadshah Abdullah joining the first batch of Haj pilgrims in prayer on their return home at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport on Saturday. Three hundred and eighty pilgrims returned home after performing their pilgrimage in Mecca.


Film producers from UMS win most awards


New talents from across the country came to the fore as their works earned national recognition at the Fifth Malaysian Students' Film and Video Festival gala awards night on Sunday.
The night belonged to the new generation of upcoming film producers who earned a measure of respect from the nation's film industry big-wigs during the awards night, which was the finale of the nine-day festival hosted by Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
Most of the accolades went to Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan, UMS and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), whose students managed to win three awards each for their work in several film categories.
The academy's hero of the day was Amir Sallehuddin Ithnin, whose work convinced the five-member jury panel to award him as the festival's Best Director for his work on the Batthosai, which was also voted as the Best Short Film/Feature.
Fathul Rahman Ahmad Ghazali's work on Rumah Degil earned the academy its third award for Best Documentary in the Culture and Heritage category.
Norlaji Hamid meanwhile championed UMS' achievements, directing the film Sabah Tea which won the Best Documentary award in the Development and Environment category.
His film Kelupis also earned a Special Jury Prize, alongside the film Budak Sampah, another entry from UMS directed by Suhiana Mohd Sutki.
Unimas students on the other hand struck true in two categories under Best Documentary, with Ada Apa di Bawah Tanah? by Mohd Zulkarnain Azhar in the Current Issues category and Sarawak Sik Cuak in the Entertainment and Sports category.
Their third award went again to Mohd Zulkarnain, whose entry E-Art swayed the judges to give him the award for Best Experimental Film/Video.
Each award, which was presented in the presence of Head of State and UMS Chancellor Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah, carried a cash prize of RM1,000, trophy and certificate.
During the event, the audience was entertained by various cultural dances and performances by singer-songwriter Ajai, Sabahan Akademi Fantasia starlet Marsha and other local singers.
A total of 208 films from around the country were submitted for the festival and vetted by a five-member jury headed by independent filmmaker U-Wei Shaari. Also on the panel were Professor Dr Naim Ahmad, Professor Madya Dr Asiah Sarji, Dedy M Borhan and Ali Ngasio.
Also present at the gala event were Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, veteran actor-director Senator Tan Sri Jins Shamsudin and Malaysian Film Development Board (Finas) director-general Mohd Mahydin Mustakim.

5th Malaysian Students Film and Video Festival winners list:

Best Advertisement/Promotional Video
Street Boarding
Kolej Yayasan Melaka
Director: Mohd Zulfandi Ahmad Nawawi

Best Music Video
Faith - 7 Collar T-Shirt
Multimedia University
Director: Mohd Firdaus Anuar

Best Animated Film/Video
Death of Governor
University Multimedia
Director: Nadia

Best Documentary
Culture and Heritage category
Rumah Degil
Akademi Seni Budaya Warisan dan Kebangsaan
Director: Fathul Rahman Ahmad Ghazali

Sabah Tea
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Director: Norlaji Hamid

Current Issues category
Ada Apa Di Bawah Tanah?
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
Director: Mohd Zulkarnain Azhar

Entertainment and Sports category
Sarawak Sik Cuak
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
Director: Chaff Seng Hui

Best Short Film/Feature
Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan
Director: Amin Sallehuddin Ithnin

Best Experimental Film/Video
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak
Director: Mohd Zulkarnain Azhar

Special Jury Prize
Selipar Terbang
Kolej Yayasan Melaka
Director: Syed Hafizul Hadee Syed Ibrahim
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Director: Norlaji Hamid
Budak Sampah
Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Director: Suhiana Mohd Sutki

Best Director
Amir Sallehuddin Ithnin
Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan


Segama hawkers still waiting for new trading place

The hawkers selling traditional handicrafts on the Segama overhead bridge here are requesting the Government to fulfil a promise it made one year ago to allocate a new place for them to do their business.
Mondansing bt Makalap who has been doing the business for over nine years, said they were plying their trade below the overhead bridge before the Mayor moved them to the present location.
"The Mayor has given us a place which is in front of the Post Office in the City but until now there is no sign of construction and we have to do our businesses in a public place," said a frustrated Mondansing who felt that they were not being taken care of by the Government even though they are licensed hawkers.
She also revealed that Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) had promised to build their stalls at a new location when they completed the business course organised by MARA one year ago. MARA even promised to give them loan. However, it turned out that all the promises were empty.
"Even though we are used to doing our business without the stall but we still need it due to the unpredictable weather. No matter how bad is the weather we still have to carry out our business as it is the only source of income for us," she said.
Mondasing disclosed that she was scolded by a City Hall enforcement officer for covering part of the overhead bridge with a towel during a hot day.When asked how much she earns a day, Mondasing said it is around RM50 to RM60.


Northern Sabah worst poverty area, says Pairin
Sabah registers highest poverty rate in country


Northern Sabah which encompasses Kota Belud, Pitas, Kota Marudu, Kudat, Beluran and Tongod, has the highest rate of poverty and hardcore poor in the State, according to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan.
He said data collected by the Government also revealed that farmers and traditional fishermen make up a large majority of those identified under the Poor or Hardcore Poor categories.
Pairin, who is also Rural Development Minister, noted that despite numerous efforts to help develop the agriculture and fisheries sectors, there are still those who have yet to receive the full benefits of such assistance.
"Because of this situation, the Federal and State Governments have planned and implemented various programs under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) and the State's Halatuju in eradicating poverty," he said.
Pairin said this at a press conference after a round-table dialogue organized by the United National Development Program (UNDP) and Universiti Malaya's Development and Poverty Research Centre at Le Meridien Hotel here, yesterday.
Also present at the dialogue were Prof Jeffrey Sachs, the special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Associate professor Dr Sulochana Nair, the UM Development and Poverty Research Centre Director, and Dr Richard Leete, the UNDP Permanent Representative to Malaysia.
Pairin said Sabah registered the highest poverty rate in the country with 21,568 people identified under the poverty line as at March 31 last year.
He however stressed that the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development and his Ministry had jointly implemented poverty eradication programs from the bottom-up, starting with home-based projects towards the aim of developing commercial fishermen and farmers.
"My Ministry has also intensified implementation of its Misi Estet Sejahtera program Statewide, which will open agricultural plantations such as oil palm cultivation to hardcore poor residents.
"Currently we have 30 such programs planned out for development Statewide under the 9MP," he said.
The Government's poverty eradication plaza includes the Agropolitant project in Pulau Banggi, Kudat, which will involve 4,500 hectares fora rubber plantation and constructing homes for the island's residents.