Much had been said over the recent spats between the state government and the finance ministry over the funding for the repairs of dilapidated schools in Sarawak.

The finance minister wants the state to pay in advance the amount to be made available to repair the schools of around RM350 million as assurance since the state still owes the federal government over R2 billion.

Images of poor conditions of the rural schools in Sarawak.

In all these charades, both are just sabre rattling for the public while the poor students and teachers are left wondering when the funds will be disbursed.

Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa) reiterates that these childish spats between the two should cease for the progress of the nation – the parts are only as good as the whole.

Sarawak is already years behind in amenities and other developments compared to Peninsular Malaysia, yet we have the federal government delaying funds for urgent school repairs because of technicalities.

From the layman’s perspective, the fund repayment assurance is not the issue; surely, the federal government can withhold taxes and other taxes to the state if Sarawak fails to honour its debt repayments.

Even if these withholding actions are not practical, then surely the shame of being branded a liar and dishonest will spur us to pay the debt or risk losing our credibility among the people.

On the other hand, the federal government withholding the funds on whims and fancy will not earn accolades from the people in Sarawak; they will sympathise with the state government and vote them in the next state election to tell the PH coalition that holding people to ransom is not an option for the nation or state’s progress.

Get the schools repaired and then you can gloat over the new buildings and amenities provided if that’s what is wanted but don’t put teachers and students lives at risk for mere technicalities.

Local MPs from the PH coalition should take heed of the spats and hasten the federal government to release the funds and get on the business of running the country rather than bickering like school kids over who has the bigger biceps.

Philip Wong Pak Ming,



Philip Wong is the director for Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa). He is an entrepreneur and author with a Masters in Development Economics (Canada) and is passionate about travelling, having visited over 100 countries to date.