It is the com­mon link be­tween the suc­cess sto­ries and those who are still strug­gling

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is Sabah chief min­is­ter

DUR­ING my vis­its to dis­tricts in Sabah, I came across many suc­cess sto­ries of farm­ers and breed­ers who had made it good after years of hard work.

I have re­ports of those who made good use of as­sis­tance they re­ceived from the many pro­grammes and schemes pro­vided by the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

Small­hold­ers, veg­etable and padi farm­ers, as well as cat­tle, poul­try and fish breed­ers, could re­count sto­ries of their hum­ble be­gin­nings at the dry and wet mar­kets be­fore mak­ing it big enough to ex­port their pro­duce and goods abroad.

Th­ese are sto­ries that mo­ti­vate me to se­cure more plans that can ben­e­fit Sabah folk.

But I am also mind­ful of chal­lenges fac­ing many who are hin­dered from reach­ing their fullest po­ten­tial.

On top of all the pos­i­tive re­ports, I also lis­tened to grouses from vil­lagers, who were not able to bring out their pro­duce eas­ily, and the chal­lenges they faced in ex­pand­ing their ven­tures.

The com­mon link be­tween the suc­cess sto­ries and those who still strug­gle lies in the in­fra­struc­ture.

There are plans in place but they take time to be im­ple­mented. Yes, Sabah is a vast state, but that will not be an ex­cuse for me not to strive harder for the peo­ple.

This is why I am push­ing hard for more funds to build bet­ter road links, and the Pan Bor­neo High­way is a tes­ta­ment to this.

Re­cently, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitin­gan an­nounced a rail­way net­work project to con­nect Kota Kin­a­balu to Ku­dat up north and San­dakan in the east.

Pairin, who is our deputy chief min­is­ter and in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment min­is­ter, re­vealed a fea­si­bil­ity study would be con­ducted to ex­pand the rail­way line.

The Sabah State Rail­way Depart­ment had re­ported a marked im­prove­ment in its ser­vice last year, re­duc­ing com­plaints and putting in 6,170 train trips, car­ry­ing 494,638 pas­sen­gers.

Our rail­way ser­vice has long pro­vided a life­line for many peo­ple com­mut­ing on its ex­ist­ing 134km line be­tween Kota Kin­a­balu and Tenom via Pa­par and Beau­fort.

But it also helped those in the agri­cul­ture and tourism in­dus­try, mov­ing pro­duce and tourists all th­ese years.

With a new net­work, I am sure it will open up more of the state to new op­por­tu­ni­ties.

As far as roads are con­cerned, the Pan Bor­neo High­way is what we are look­ing for­ward to. It will give us a greater link with our neigh­bours Sarawak and Brunei, and, who knows, maybe North Kal­i­man­tan.

I have heard of whis­pers from de­trac­tors and scep­tics, who have been spread­ing lies about the project such as it will not be able to com­mence.

MON­DAY, MARCH 27, 2017

How­ever, the com­mit­ment shown by Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak ear­lier this month guar­an­tees oth­er­wise.

He even gave his as­sur­ance that the toll-free road net­work would be on a par with those in de­vel­oped na­tions and the Pub­lic Works Depart­ment would en­sure this.

Na­jib was quoted as say­ing in his speech when launch­ing the Sabah Pan Bor­neo project in Sin­du­min: “This is not a tim­ber or kam­pung road. This is a world­class high­way. This is my com­mit­ment as prime min­is­ter.”

He is de­ter­mined to en­sure that the Pan Bor­neo High­way project in Sabah changes the land­scape of de­vel­op­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work through­out the state.

“Sabah will get a com­plete toll­free high­way net­work at an over­all cost of more than RM16 bil­lion in five years. This is the con­tri­bu­tion of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment.

“I want to say this is not over yet. If the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion per­mits, we will give more al­lo­ca­tions for high­way de­vel­op­ment in Sabah. We want Sabah to change be­cause the state has a high po­ten­tial.”

This long-term project will cre­ate 400,000 jobs for the peo­ple in Sabah and Sarawak, and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal con­trac­tors to ex­cel.

Once com­pleted, the link will open up many op­por­tu­ni­ties for the peo­ple who live along the stretch.

We also have our own leader from Sabah, Deputy Works Min­is­ter Datuk Ros­nah Ab­dul Rashid Shirlin, mon­i­tor­ing the project.

In the lat­est event, Na­jib launched the ground­break­ing of a project to up­grade the 28.4km Sin­du­min-Kam­pung Me­lalia Road in Sip­i­tang at a cost of RM600 mil­lion.

Years from now, we will be able to sam­ple more of those unique

duri­ans that can only be found deep in ru­ral ar­eas, al­low our fresh prawn sell­ers to reach out to a wider mar­ket in­stead of de­pend­ing on mid­dle­men, and rub­ber tap­pers need not carry their la­tex far to those who col­lect and buy it.

Our chil­dren will ben­e­fit from this, and this is where we must play our role to en­sure th­ese projects are im­ple­mented and com­pleted.

A sec­tion of the road in Pu­tatan, Sabah, which will be linked to the Pan Bor­neo High­way. Once com­pleted, the high­way will en­able Sabah to have a greater link with its neigh­bours Sarawak and Brunei.

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