KOTA KINABALU: Although the latest Household Income And Basic Amenities Survey Report by Department of Statistics Malaysia revealed that Sabah's poverty incidence has dropped from 4.0% in 2014 to 2.9% in 2016, it does not reflect the reality on the ground in Sabah, according to DAP MP for Sandakan, Stephen Wong.
"Sabah is still the poorest state in Malaysia. Unfortunately, we fail to see substantial initiative to boost Sabah economy in Budget 2018, like huge infrastructure projects or major development announcement" Wong said during the budget debate in Parliament.
According to statistics, Sabah's household median income increased from RM3,745 in 2014 to RM4,110 in 2016. However, the same report revealed that Sabah has the most serious income inequality or income gap among states in Malaysia.
The Gini Coefficient increased from 0.387 in 2014 to 0.402 in 2016, the highest in Malaysia despite the national figure averagely dropped from 0.401 to 0.399 in 2016.
Wong said it showed the disparity between the poor and rich in Sabah was widening. For the lower income group, the figures showed that they were suffering more than before.
"The fact is that the people feel hopeless for the country's future. The economy is declining, job opportunities are decreasing, prices of goods are going up, the living standard is worsening over years, young people and talents have fled overseas" he claimed.
"This is the reality in Sabah and Malaysia as reflected in the latest opinion poll" Wong said.
Wong criticized the Barisan Nasional (BN) government's austerity policy where subsidies of basic necessities such as cooking oil and sugar were abolished, the hike in prices of fuels, serious inflation as well as implementation of regressive tax - GST which caused a burden to shoulder for ordinary citizen.
"BN has failed to address these issues and deliver promises made in GE13. Such as the price standardization program - BN had promised to standardize the prices of goods between East and West Malaysia as prices of goods in Sabah are higher than Peninsular Malaysia, but it failed to accomplish it.â€
Wong said it was sad to see Sabahans suffering due to the high cost of living.
"Furthermore, the report shows that Sabah has the highest housing unaffordability index among other states in Malaysia.
"It is more difficult for Sabahans, compared to citizens from other states, to buy a house. On national average, it takes a person about 5.78 years to buy a house without having any spending, but in Sabah, it takes a Sabahan about 11.41 years; almost double from the national average. It is unusual and serious" he said.
"Even Chief Minister of Sabah Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman agreed that house prices in Sabah are higher than in Peninsular Malaysia. BN has promised to build 72,310 affordable houses in Sabah, but according to a written reply in Parliament, only 17,665 affordable houses or 24 percent were accomplished" he said.
Wong also commented on the latest wage report for Sabah.
He said according to statistics, Sabah's median wage was RM1,240, the lowest in Malaysia compared to the national average median wage of RM1,703.
"More than half of the working people earn lower than RM1,240" he said.