Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Debate on his Excellency's Address (English Version)

Speech by Chiew Chiu Sing ADUN N59 Kidurong on the debate of

Motion of Appreciation on Tuan Yang Terutama Yang Di-Pertua Negeri’s Address on 16th of May, 2012 in the Sarawak State Legislative Council, Kuching, Sarawak.

Mr. Speaker,

Early January this year, just about a week after  ushering  in the chinese New Year,  the contractor for rubbish collection in Bintulu, Trieneken Sdn Bhd., had failed to collect rubbish for about two weeks  in many of the  housing estates in Bintulu.

Nobody was happy during those two weeks, with rubbish every where uncollected,  piling up and spilling over the rubbish bins. Foul smell was in the air. It was not only an eyesore and a nescience, but most  certainly unhygienic also.

The officer in charge at the Bintulu office when interviewed by the press  said that Trieneken Sdn Bhd was facing man power problem and could not find the truck drivers and the assistance for their rubbish dump trucks though they had advertised to recruit. No body applied, he said.

A day later Chairman and Committee members of the  Bintulu Lorry Association echoed the seriousness of the problem of the lack of lorry drivers. They mentioned of the shortcomings and gist of the problem   and urge the government to take steps in resolving the problem.

In fact Mr. Speaker there is a shortage of all kinds of workers in Bintulu these days, pretty much like the days when the construction of the first MLNG plant in Bintulu started. in the early 1980’s.

But let us not to be  led to think that this is permanent and that employment is not a problem anymore,  while in fact this is cyclical. But of course when the Samalaju Industrial Park is operating, more permanent jobs will be made available. That, no one can deny.

But employment  in Bintulu in the past had  pretty much followed where the wind blows.  When the  MLNG plants first started in Bintulu, there was  job everywhere  and when that was done with, ( though some stayed behind and  were recruited by the MLNG plants)   the work force flogged to join in the  logging of  the forest, working in timber camps after which there wasn’t  much  job left  either,  and many went to work in the timber camps of  the world, in  Brazil, Africa, PNG and others,  while more than hundred of thousands migrated to live in Semananjuan  Malaysia , hoping to find the greener pasture there.

Mr. Speaker,

Though more of the younger generation  these days would be able to attain tertiary education and thus able to get jobs easier, yet many had graduated but cannot find jobs, like  for example between 2007 and 2010 of the total number of Sarawakian graduated from Public Higher Institutions of Learning,  out of a total of  21,251 graduates, 5958 were unemployed, though figures showed that  job vacancies were still many. And even for those who were lucky to get a job, the dream of them joining the  high income economy these days was just to  far away.

It is really unfortunate that after all these decades the situation is coming back to us,  and history is repeating itself.  It is  unfortunate because the problem of employment was never seriously addressed to  by the government of the day.  What I mean is our economy lack  sustainability  and what we need is  a concerted effort by all sectors to reverse this problem which  had been building for all these years.

Mr. Speaker,

We  face a critical moment in our time  in which we have to pursue a path that must lead to a more durable economy and growing opportunities for all Sarawakians . For otherwise,  we would be returning  to the policies that caused the  erosion of  building  the middle class,  and tilted an ever increasing share of income into the hands of a fortunate few, who were allowed to play by their own rules.

Our state is well endowed with our rich natural resources, clean and safe energy which should give us the considerable strengths that could help us to build the middle class. We have a strong work force, more and more or our younger generations are getting an education and many are becoming very enterprising.  Therefore, it is imperative that our policy makers should build on our strengths to create an expanding middle class and provide more opportunity for more young people, regardless of their backgrounds.

A larger middle class is good for our country. In fact it is good for politics, our economy and our civic institutions.  It is good for our workers and businesses. It is good for our future prospect and economic growth, it makes us a stronger country where our people will be better  bonded as Malaysian and Sarawakians despite of all our different ethnic and religious back grounds. Building a large middle class is not about political idealogies, it's just common sense.

Mr. speaker

Much had been said of SCORE and the employment it will create and the potential it has, to bring our State into the high income economy. The same had been said of  during the construction of the MLNG plants and we have seen the results, leaving behind both a cyclical and structural employment problem in the state  and the  missed chance in building the middle class.

Even at this very primary stage in  the development of SCORE  business opportunities are not being created so that building the middle class in our State can have a better shot. For example like the thousand of units of the all inclusive workers camps. They are being built and operated by a joint venture with no open tender for others to have a chance to bit for the business. This kind of practices  reduced the local business community from participating and thus hampering  again the  chance in growing  the middle class in our economy. Can’t we open this up so that more people can participate and earn the money.

In building the middle class,  we need is a set of appropriate mix of economic policies and a level playing field  that can reduce the big gap between the rich and the poor and bring us back to a  healthy recovery path .

Businesses  and  employment are  core to building the Middle Class . We know that employers hire workers when they think it is profitable to do so. And that wages are determined by a mix of factors, including labor supply and demand, technology , education and skill and institutional features that affect bargaining power and morale.

Our State is faced with many  challenges,  our work force though strong  is still young and many has not acquire the education, skill or the work culture. For those who had the experience many  have gone else where to find the job and are not in our State. We all  know that education is the key to shed one off poverty and the more students who do not walk away from their education, more of them walk  the stage  to get their diploma or degree and  educational attainment is a  major contributor to the building of the middle class. Higher education cannot just be a luxury for a few,  it is the clearest path to better jobs and a stronger middle class.

But today tertiary education  for Sarawkians is still expansive, limited and made  difficult for many of our young ones  to go to college or university. Even if we have the first class facilities like the UPM Bintulu campus which has so much potential to churn out graduates for all the past decades,  is just sitting there and not being put to greater  use  so as to give the much needed education to  Sarawakian and especially those in and around the Bintulu area.

In fact, there are so many faculties that she could be offering to meet the need for  growing a durable Sarawak economy. For example, to day Bintulu is the home to one of the largest petrol chemical complexs in the country and the coming up of the  SamaLaju Industrial Park , UPM would be the  most appropriate place for degrees in engineering, science and technology,  for interns, for research and development in the related fields. This is the opportunity for partnerships between the university and the industry to promote the dual goal of academic skills and on the job preparedness for the next generation of our local workers.

I have heard from business leaders who had  wanted to hire in Bintulu but cannot find the workers with the right skill. Growing industries in science and technology have more openings for jobs  as we have workers who can do them, yet we do not have the people. This is inexcusable. And that is why to prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, our commitment to skills and education has to start early for the whole of the State of Sarawak  and UPM has to play her maximum role here.

Building  the middle class involves leveraging positive externalities to raise labor demand and productivity, and create new industries and products, while equipping our worker with tools they need to succeed. We need to grow our businesses. But when things like, Trinekene, the Bintulu Lorry Associations and so many others cannot even find lorry drivers they are no businesses to be done.  But,  when one have to spend  6000 ringgit just to get a lorry driving license, not to mention this and that in applying for that license and an additional license for  carrying goods (GDL-  the Goods Driving License)  how many can afford 6000 ringgit and the additional costs when  most of them who would want to become lorry drivers were already poor in the first place or have just finished secondary school,  and have no way of finding the 6000 ringgit plus,  to start out. And when they cannot get the money they turned elsewhere and we miss yet another chance of creating a middle class income person, worst still, when lorries can’t  move, no business can move, so much opportunities are  lost.

Small businesses create jobs , while their  productivity create growth.  And this is where we need to work hard and  concentrate on our effort to help them succeed. Tear down the regulations that prevent them grow, let them have the much needed  financing,  give incentives to them and support research and innovations to new jobs and new industries. And let our government be leaner, quicker and more responsive to meet  the needs of our business and our folks.

Yet I have one Madam  Ramis  anak Tinggi who had applied for a new land title for Block 27, Lot 173, Kemena Land District , as the old one was lost. She went to the Bintulu Land and Survey office but was told that she would need to wait for 6 months to get the land title replaced ! Six months to replace a land title at this internet age and time ? !!

Madam Ramis  had submitted her application at the beginning of February 2012,  but her application sat at the Bintulu Land Office and did not  get out off the  Office for the next 3 months. And May I know what is the application doing sitting in the office for almost 3 months ? It was not after several  enquires and  to which the answer was always that  it is on the way and would be sent to Kuching the next week.

But when Madam Ramis daughter called the  Kuching Land and Survey office  on 16th April, 2012,   it was only then known that the application had never been sent  there ! I mean what could take so long as just to send a document to Kuching for processing,  no wonder it takes six months to replace a lost land title.

Mr. Speaker,

On hand I have several  others issues which the government can be more responsive, efficient and can do better to meet the needs of the people and complement the making of the middle class.  First of all, like the junction at Daiken  and Kidurong road. Every week one or two accidents would occur and the junction is becoming more and more dangerous for road users there.

The Daiken and Kidurong road junction is one of the most complicated junction on the busy, major  Kidurong road in Bintulu.  So many big lorries, trailers ,tankers, and private cars too, go in and out of the junction every day,  and yet there is no traffic lights for traffic control  ! only the  stop, go and turning sign boards,  and this is not enough. As a result vehicles big or small everyday  take chance and risk their lives just to get in or sneak out!! And for just one false move one could be smacked flat by an oncoming 16 wheelers !

Whatever the reason that caused the delay to install the much needed and way over due traffic lights,  this should have never happened,  as the situation there had been like that for  a long time already. And even if a permanent solution is not at hand at this moment, at least put in the temporary traffic light or call in the traffic police to alleviate the burden and risk in driving there and  save lives!

Mr. Speaker,

Then there is the frequent flash flood at mile 5, Tun Hussein Onn road, at the entrance of Beverly Hill Housing Estate. The dual carriage road there would be flooded up to two feet deep at times, making it almost in accessible when that occurs. The situation had been like that for many years already and promises by the authorities concerned to rectify the problem  had been long standing and overdue. Being a major and part of the Pan Borneo Trunk road also, we can imagine the  traffic volume and when it is flooded, the chaos and the jam it would create.

At Mile 31 of the Bintulu/Miri road, couple of kilometers towards the Kemena River, lies the palm oil farm of En. Speriyadi Bin Dris  who had in the year 1994 started planting  6000 numbers  palm oil trees but since 1997, 4800 number of the palm oil trees  had been taken  by a West Malaysian Palm oil plantation company and today they are  harvesting the palm oil trees of En Speriyadi.

According to En.Speriyadi,  the land which he had planted palm oil trees were the NCR land of the people of Kampong Maskat but was taken by  a West Malaysian Palm oil company.

En. Speriyadi  is very angry that the West Malaysian company had occupied his land and is harvesting  his palm oil trees. He is angry because the West Malaysian Company had taken his land, a land  area which he and his kampong folks  has worked and lived on  according to the traditions and adat of the natives of Sarawak .

En. Speriyadi had brought  the matter up to the Sebauh Sub District and a meeting was called by all those concerned to  solve the problem,  but until this day, there was no solution was in sight,  while  En. Speriyadi palm oil trees  continue to be  harvested by the West Malaysian company. En. Speriyadi had written a letter dated 22.2.2012  to the Land & Survey with regards to the matter but there was no reply also.

Mr. Speaker, if En. Speriyadi is such an enterprising and hard working fellow Sarawakian, should not he and others also be given the chance,  apart from big plantation company, to have land and do farming  so as to  move ourselves up the ladder of better living  and become a middle class person.

Mr. Speaker,

94 aspiring airplane students, learning to fly the single and twin engine airplane, at the Gulf Golden International Flying Academy (GGIFA) International College of Aviation  in Bintulu were dumped and could not finish their courses when the above mentioned International College of Aviation suddenly closed down its flying school, in the last quarter of  2010.

The students never got their flying certificates as promised by the Aviation College.  All the money which the students had  paid for school fees were forfeited and not returned to them. The schools fees for the course was around RM 200,000 per student.

For many parents those were their hard earned money, savings or loans which they have planned to pay back to the bank when their children could make it to become pilots. That was all the money they have.  The parents now have no more  money left  for their children to  go to another flying academy elsewhere, or what,  to finish the course. The future of the students is at stack.

It is most irresponsible of GGIFA, the International College of Aviation or any college for that matter,  to dump students half way through the course just like that,  while  not even making an attempt of some sort, to make arrangements so that the students could finish their courses and obtain their flying certificates.

The College even  challenge the students to take up the matter in court if they don’t like it , but this is not just a question of law,   it is also about morality ,  business morality and responsibility to others. Now, how is the world going to   look at us and at our institution of higher learning as they may close down anytime like GGIFA.

I therefore urge that our government  to intervene in this matter  so that the dreams of these students of  becoming  pilots would come true .

And finally, Mr. Speaker,

Coming back to Trieneken, there is really no excuse that rubbish were left uncollected for two weeks because there were no drivers.  I am sure there are no provisions like that in the contract agreement.  She really have to do a better job. By the way why was she given the monopoly to rubbish collection in the first place and how much was paid to them yearly, considering they only collect two times a week for the housing area.  Isn’t  it about time that we should open up rubbish collection service for open tender so that local companies can also participate in this line of business,  may be they could even provide better and cheaper services to our people than the so called International company.

Thank you. Mr. Speaker.

Chiew Chin Sing.

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