Stephen Rundi Utom

KUCHING: Sarawak was expecting a larger rural development allocation but this was not the case with the portion shared between the state and Sabah, said Utilities Minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

He said Sarawak had allocated its own RM2.37 billion for rural electrification, and needed an additional RM900 million to achieve full electrification.

“Therefore, we were expecting larger federal allocation, but this is not the case with the portion shared between Sarawak and Sabah.

“For rural water supply, the federal budget mentioned that an allocation of RM470 million will be allocated for rural water supply in Sabah and Sarawak.

Stephen Rundi Utom

“There was no mention of the specific amount allocated for Sarawak. The amount of fund required to provide full water supply coverage to the unserved rural areas in Sarawak is estimated at RM3 billion,” he said.

He gave his comments when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune on Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s Budget 2020 allocation for rural development.

Dr Rundi noted that the allocation excluded the fund required to upgrade the existing water supply system including the water grid, which would require a further RM6 billion.

Out of the RM2.3 billion requested by the Rural Development Ministry in the 11th Malaysia Plan, only RM700 million was approved.

“This amount is therefore inadequate to increase the coverage and to meet the target of 99 per cent access to clean water in Sarawak as mentioned in the Budget.

“On the other hand, Sarawak has allocated RM2.8 billion for water stressed areas to improve the reliability and sustainability of our water under phase 1 of our Water Supply Master Plan and Water Grid programme,” he said.

Apart from that, under Phase 2 of the programme to be put up in the 12th Malaysia Plan, Sarawak will further improve its water supply system by implementing the state-wide water grid, including raw water source development works, increasing the water treatment plant capacities as well as increasing the water coverage to the rural areas of Sarawak.

Dr Rundi further explained that the present overall water supply coverage in Sarawak was about 81.4 per cent.

“The allocation announced in the federal budget is estimated to be able to increase the overall coverage by only 0.3 per cent from the estimated 81.4 per cent to 81.7 per cent,” he said.