The government, through the Rural and Regional Development Ministry (KKDW), has allocated RM1.06 billion to develop 224 infrastructure projects in Sabah this year, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Minister of Rural and Regional Development, said the projects include Rural Roads (JALB), Rural Bridges (JMLB), Rural Water Supply (BALB), Rural Electricity Supply (BELB) and Area Development Projects (PPK). He said experience showed that many projects faced implementation constraints in Sabah, hence close cooperation between the federal and state governments is important to overcome the challenges. "The Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) has decided that projects up to RM50 million will be implemented by the state government and those above RM50 million by KKDW, with the Public Works Department as the implementing agency. This coordination must be done. "This is so that stakeholders feel there is coordination between the state government and KKDW. That's why we called for a meeting to coordinate between the minister and exco member overseeing rural areas so that we can collectively help in implementing these projects," he said. Ahmad Zahid said this after chairing a coordination meeting between the Rural and Regional Development Minister and rural exco members (MEXCLUB), which was also attended by Sabah Rural Development Minister Datuk Jahid Jahim. Ahmad Zahid said coordination between the federal and state governments is important to ensure that all development projects assigned to the state governments nationwide can be expedited and carried out smoothly. "We have presented existing physical projects to the state government for implementation; they must be monitored for speedy completion, and we must find ways to expedite them without disregarding the government's established procedures," he said. Citing an example, he said an approved project might only be implemented after two to three years due to various factors such as consultants and length y open tenders. He said there were projects approved before the MADANI government that still couldn't be implemented because the procedures used were not transparent, so KKDW had to obtain implementation methods through the Ministry of Finance based on proper governance. Ahmad Zahid said the development allocation for rural exco members has been increased to RM750,000 this year from RM500,000 last year to ensure that rural residents continually benefit from government-planned programmes. "We provide this additional allocation to our exco members to implement projects according to their target groups in their respective states, namely infrastructure and amenity projects worth RM750,000 per exco. So, I hope they don't just send representatives to upcoming meetings; seriousness is necessary," he said. He said today's meeting also invited representatives from the National Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to coordinate efforts in TVET education and disseminate it widely to chi ldren in rural areas. "The response to TVET is extraordinary. The employability rate for TVET graduates at the national level is 94.5 per cent, while for graduates of KKDW institutions themselves, it is 98.7 per cent, meaning our courses (KKDW) are suitable for market demand," he said. At the meeting, four papers were presented: the Bumiputera Economic Congress (KEB) Outcome Paper, the Rural Water Supply Paper (BALB), the Sejati Madani Programme Paper and Phase 2 of the National Digital Network (JENDELA) Implementation Paper. Meanwhile, KKDW, in a statement, said the ministry had received a total allocation of RM1.41 billion for Sabah, with RM1.06 billion for infrastructure projects, an increase of RM290.1 million or 20 per cent compared to last year. "This is the highest allocation among states. This allocation involves 295 programmes or projects consisting of 70 new programmes or projects and 225 continuation programmes or projects with a total cost of the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) amounting to RM17.8 b illion," it said. Source: BERNAMA News Agency