By Ratcharathan Rawe Shanggar
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (Bernama) -- Developing rural areas has always been on the government's agenda since the beginning of the establishment of Malaysia, and that tradition has continued uninterrupted by the Keluarga Malaysia government led by Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who took over the country’s administration in August 2021.
Various initiatives have been implemented by the government so that the rural population is not excluded from the flow of national development, thus bridging the gap between urban and rural areas.
The government's commitment to Keluarga Malaysia can be seen through Budget 2023, which allocates RM2.55 billion to continue improving infrastructure facilities in rural areas nationwide for the well-being of the people.
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Political Science professor, Prof Datuk Dr Jayum Jawan, said that plans and development implemented by the Keluarga Malaysia government can lift the country and the communities, especially in rural areas, to enjoy the flow of national development.
Accordingly, he believes that the federal government's focus on developing rural areas should continue because the majority of residents in rural areas are Malays and Bumiputeras.
“After more than half a century, the image of rural areas has changed a lot, into semi-rural or semi-urban, suburban and various others. However, a large number of Malays and Bumiputeras still live in rural and suburban areas,” he said when contacted by Bernama.
Citing the Sarawak Pan Borneo Highway project as an example, Jayum, who is also a Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, said the highway, once completed, will serve as the trigger for modernisation and changes in the ways and lifestyles of the rural population.
Commenting further, he said small-scale economic activities by rural residents, such as in Pekan Stapang, Selangau and Pekan Tatau, Sibu and other towns in Sarawak are now increasing as a result of the development of Pan Borneo Sarawak, which passes through the area.
However, he said in planning rural development, the parties concerned must first identify the areas they want to develop, in addition to taking into account and getting the input of local people to help perfect the development policy or programme.
Sharing a similar sentiment is Mohd Haffiza Alimudin, the chairman of Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Pembangunan Luar Bandar Malaysia (PKPLBM), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), who is of the view that a bigger allocation provided by the Keluarga Malaysia government, will bring about more development in rural areas throughout the country.
He said the aspirational goal of the Rural Development Policy, with three main principles of sustainable, inclusive and holistic, towards the vision of prosperous rural areas can be achieved by 2030, through ideas which also focus on the development of sources of income for the local population.
“The RM472 million fund provided for the Rural Electricity Supply project, and RM381 million for the Rural Water Supply and Alternative Water Supply projects in the 2023 Budget also show that the government not only focuses on one race or community but for all communities to prosper,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Association (POASM) president, Majid Suhut, acknowledged that the Keluarga Malaysia government is always trying to develop rural areas, including the Orang Asli settlements in the rural and interior areas.
He expressed hope that the efforts can be improved by channelling sufficient funds towards realising the dream of the Orang Asli settlements in the Peninsula in getting better infrastructure facilities.
Majid also hopes that the one-off assistance of RM1,000 to Tok Batin or Penghulu of Orang Asli communities can be continued in the future, in recognition of their contribution to the development and preservation of the heritage of the Orang Asli community.
The Keluarga Malaysia government, led by Ismail Sabri, has often reiterated its commitment and assurance to continue empowering the development of rural areas and the people.