SARAWAK DAYAK NATIONAL UNION (SDNU) recently organised a workshop to explore the impacts of fuel price rises in rural Sarawak. The workshop, held on June 21st 2008 in Kuching, identified THREE main problems:
(1) Rising Cost of Rural transport
(2) Rising cost of generating electricity and
(3) Rising food prices.
Extract from the workshop findings and recommendations on transport:
Rising Cost of Rural transport
In some areas of rural Sarawak, petrol prices are as much as $14.00 to $20.00 per gallon. The main mode of transport is by rivers - there is almost no other alternative except for the presence of logging road and basic gravel road provided by the government. In most cases, there is no road.
The workshop put forward some solution. PETRONAS should operate / subsidise small rural refueling stations as its social obligation to alleviate poverty and rural hardship. The river boat engine should also be subsidised by the government by at least 40%. In order to improve the income of rural people, their goods should be able to reach the market at reasonable cost. To do this, the government should buy and provide “vans” to rural operators as poor road conditions makes it difficult for small scale entrepreneurs to operate and profit from the provision of transport services in rural areas. Many school children are still residing in longhouses and rural villages and high fuel costs make sending children to school very expensive. Many rural school are not able to provide full boarding for its students. The government should provide free boat ride facilities to school by providing such services.
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