Despite the decades-old 'politics of development' policy in Sarawak, the state is still vastly behind on clean water, electricity and decent roads.
KUCHING: If a fast food outlet is a measure of “development” then Betong division with its 94,000 strong population in Sarawak is on the threshold of “having arrived”.
Betong, which was made a Division in 2002 and is now an administration centre ‘overseeing’ Saratok and Maludam, is a “well developed city” according to Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu Numpang.
And he’s attributed this to the state’s successful ‘politics of development’.
But the local opposition which is shadowing his portfolio and that of two other ministers from Betong division, beg to differ.
According to Betong PKR spokesmen Vernon Aji Kedit, Jabu is “correct” only so far as the buildings go.
“True Betong has big buildings but inside it is a dead. It’s all cosmetically nice in Betong.
“If you drive pass as Jabu said, you must be blind if you say Betong is not developed. You pass trunk roads, its very nice and we have Dewan Kalong Ningkan and a nice mini Putrajaya.
“But five minutes from there, Tg Asam roads and our longhouses has no tap water until now. And more villages have no electricity also.
“That is Jabu’s politics of development. Nice to look at from the outside but horrible inside,” said Kedit.
He said although Betong had many agro and agricultural based projects they were mostly family owned businesses while the operators of rubber estates and oil palm plantations prefered to hire low cost foreign workers, leaving young people “with zero” employment opportunities.
“There are zero opportunities for the young. They all go Kuching to look for jobs because there are no industries here.
“Only the old people are left in Jabu’s developed Betong,” said Kedit adding that the Minor Rural Projects disseminated by Jabu and the local MP were not considered as industries.
Betong needs industries
Kedit said Jabu needed to understand that a ‘developed’ Betong means having industries that provide jobs and revenue generating opportunities for locals.
“Real development is building an industry, Mukah for example has an industry even though its has many scandal. Tg Manis is a hub to create job opportunity.
“But Betong has no development even though before this Betong was flooded by many projects but in the end there was no follow-ups on the projects and proper planning.
“And because of this lack of planning we saw the kepayang and fishmart projects fail.
“Betong has big potential but it needs a clear stand on development, so why doesn’t Jabu want to develop the area in correct ways?” he asked.
Betong has to its glory Jabu, federal Minister Douglas Uggah and an Assistant Minister Lawson Chuat in Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s administration. Jabu himself has been Betong representative since August 1974.
Despite the political clout, Betong has no ‘anchoring’ development, claims Kedit.
“Betong has three ministers and yet there are no industries so what development are they talking about ?
“The latest rumour is that Betong will have a KFC. Is having a KFC a measure of development?” he asked.