KUCHING: Sarawak still needs 4,402 kilometres of roads to be built until 2030 at a total cost of RM24.8 billion to connect more than 1,000 existing roads in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said the 4,402 km of roads, proposed to be built within the 14-year period at that cost, meant that it required RM1.9 billion a year to build 338 km of roads.
“That is a very tall order but if we do it together, I think we can make it,” he said at a press conference after officiating at the Road Connectivity Lab 2016, here, Tuesday.
Masing, who is also state Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister, said the road projects would connect all the 5,000 settlements in Sarawak.
“Whether the government has the money to build those roads or not is another question. But out of interest I am telling you that Sarawak alone collects approximately RM2 billion a year in GST (Goods and Services Tax) while we need RM1.9 billion a year to build the roads until 2030.
“You can see the connection there, that if we keep the money collected from GST we have more than enough to fulfil our dream of connecting the whole of Sarawak.
“We have the money but do we have the political will to influence the Malaysian government to allow that to happen,” he added.
Hence, Masing said, proper discussion would be held on whether some of the GST money could be used to build the roads, adding that he would bring up the suggestion for discussion with the state government.
“The state government has been given a good mandate by the people of Sarawak. The spirit to fight for what is required by Sarawak is important and I am sure the federal government will appreciate that and will understand the need for us to develop,” said Masing.
He opined that GST was good as another means for the government to collect funds for infrastructure development to compensate the low price of oil and gas.
Meanwhile, Masing said, the government would ensure that all existing roads would be upgraded or repaired to make for safe and comfortable travel.
On the poor condition of the Ba’kelalan Road, Masing said it was built under the Jiwa Murni project, which was cheaper than the JKR grade R1 road, but he assured that the road would be upgraded when the fund is available.
He said the priority was to create connectivity and eventually all roads built under the Jiwa Murni project would be upgraded to JKR grade R1 standard.
He cited the Belaga Road connecting Menjawa to Belaga town, which could cost RM201 million to build if it was JKR R1 road standard but because it was built under the Jiwa Murni project, it only cost the government RM61 million.