KUCHING: Sarawak is among five states to be given priority by the Works Ministry in terms of infrastructure development over the next five years.
Newly-appointed Works Minister Baru Bian lists out the other four states as Sabah, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu.
The prioritised infrastructure development would be those involving highways, state roads, airports and universities.
“This is my plan for the next five years and it will be relevant to these five states, which are lagging behind others in Malaysia,” he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur after having clocked in for his first day as Works Minister yesterday.
Baru, who is Selangau MP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak chairman, observed that infrastructure development in other states in Malaysia are also less than satisfactory.
“We will implement projects that have been approved and signed by the relevant authorities, except those that need to be reviewed in terms of cost and viability,” he said.
He said the Works Ministry needs to be given the authority to construct highways apart from the Pan Borneo Highway in Sabah and Sarawak, to ensure that the roads are of good quality and should link the urban areas with the rural areas.
“In Sarawak’s case, there should be good quality roads linking the highlands like Long Semadoh, Ba Kelalan, Bario and Ulu Kapit, with urban areas.
“Infrastructure development is the catalyst of the overall development in these areas, and also to the success of the tourism sector,” he added.
Baru said the Works Ministry would need at least RM2 billion per year to maintain federal roads nationwide.
For three consecutive years, the ministry was only allocated RM600 million to RM800 million annually to maintain roads, despite requests for the increase in the allocation, he said.
“Now I understand why our roads are patched up only. This is because the funds to repair them were not sufficient. I also understand that we need to tar-seal roads every six to seven years; otherwise the roads would be in bad condition.
“At the moment, 30 per cent of the federal roads are categorised as ‘in poor and bad condition’.”
Baru said he would raise the issue regarding the increase in allocation and follow-up actions in the next federal cabinet meeting.
Source: The Borneo Post