Sabah’s ‘Great Depression’

The decision by the Government Employees Co-operative Society Berhad (Kopeks) recently to settle debts owed by its members to Ah Longs to the hefty tune of RM500,000 made one wonder if Kopeks is not actually encouraging its members to go into debt, because it could easily bail them out anytime when the situation becomes critical. The bailout was a precedent that set a bad example of co-operative fund management.

It also reminded us how bad the economic situation in the Sabah is right now. If government servants can go into serious debt in spite of earning salaries, imagine the situation for those without jobs, and those in the rural areas who have to live off the land just to keep body and soul together. In this period of high inflation even those with salaries are in fact living below the poverty line.

If we still need to be convinced about the dire situation the people are facing just let’s note that the recent job fair organized by the BN got a surprising response of 30,000! And these only involved those who could afford to come. Many didn’t even bother to come because they knew it was not worth the effort and cost to go. Part of the reasons for state’s poverty is the high unemployment among the young school levers and graduates. Many graduates actually survive by opening and operating kueh stalls, even taking on odd jobs. So the repeated advice to youths to not be choosy with jobs is actually a lot of nonsense knowing these young people, out of sheer desperation, are even going by the tens of thousands to Kuala Lumpur, Johore and Singapore to earn money.  High unemployment in Sabah has also caused the existence of sandwich families, which the government has admitted to be very high in number. The term “sandwich family” can be defined, from my own observation, as the case of parents who have to house and feed their children who are already married and have their own children because of joblessness. Many families are not even having any celebration when their children get married because of they are so cash-strapped!

There is an ongoing, hidden depression going on in Sabah. They have suffered so long but have partly resigned to their fate knowing they is nothing they can do. The government has simply failed them. A fifty-ringgit note doesn’t last very long, doesn’t buy a lot these days. People have very little saving and for those who struggle to make ends meet, the money runs out long before payday. What is more depressing is that we all know the government has not an iota of plan to solve the problem; all so-called anti-poverty actions are just ad-hoc programs. Solve this and this, and wait for the next one to surface! The government is confused because it doesn’t have the financial capability to solve the problem and it doesn’t understand all the factors affecting the economy, globally or locally. So they have become experts in coming up with lame explanations and playing the blame game, like they blame youths for being unemployed because “they are choosy.” What a load of nonsense!


Patriotism? Or just plain poverty?

So in desperation, the people who need to settle their financial problems have to resort to Ah Longs, or loan sharks. And loan sharks come to the fill up the market because there is a huge need for their service. A profusion of loan sharks, the rise of MLMs, get-rich-quick schemes and gambling businesses are a clear indication of serious economic problem in any country. People need a way out to escape financial pitfalls and hope to fulfill their dreams by buying lottery tickets as a way to comfort their troubled souls. The latest way to become rich overnight today is to find the tokek lizard and make millions overnight!

I would challenge the BN government to undertake a statistical survey of the situation and give us the accurate figures for unemployed secondary school leavers and graduates, the number of sandwich families and the grand total of amounts they spend from their parents’ income, the number of Sabahans who are working in the Peninsular and Singapore, and most importantly to give an economic blueprint for Sabah to solve unemployment and poverty in the short term. Or is the government itself is too cash-strapped to undertake these surveys? How much does it cost to pay IDS to do them compared to providing for some road buildings in which the cost are doubles of tripled for the benefit of some political bosses? How much money has been stashed overseas, robbing us of economic trickle-down effects? We can only imagine the terrible losses we have suffered and our children will suffer in the future because of our government’s corruption and mismanagement!

What future do these little Sabahans have left?

Daniel John Jambun is the President of CigMa (Common Interest Group Malaysia), an ad hoc apolitical human rights movement in Sabah.

Posted on 14 August 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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