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Planned highways sound great, but...
Published on: Monday, December 26, 2016

By A traveller, Lahad Datu
CONGRATULATIONS to the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister for their commitment to build a dual carriageway from Sipitang to Tawau.

Basing on the map posted on Tuesday, 20th December 2016 the dual carriageway also includes Tawau to Keningau and Sipitang joining the highway of Sipitang.

This, of course, will make travel easier and shorten the time. It is hoped that a programme will be introduced to develop empty lands on both sides along the highway, which are presently especially from Sipitang to Ranau and from Kalabakkan to Keningau, Tenom and Sipitang only secondary jungle.

There are many marketable crops that can be planted along these highways.

Originally these highways were supposed to be from Kuching to Kalabakkan without passing any cities or towns along the way. The highway will be along the border with Kalimantan.

The decision to change the alignment to go through Cities and Towns of both Sarawak and Sabah make a lot of economic sense.

Up to now there is really no traffic between Sarawak and Sabah. The real traffic is within the State of Sarawak and Sabah – from cities to cities and town to towns. By the way what is important for dual carriage highway is between Kota Kinabalu and Beaufort Town.

This stretch of road is heavily used during holidays and weekends especially by the Bruneians.

The sponsors or the contractors for the original Pan Borneo highway must have been thinking of Kayu Balak along the border.

It was also announced that the Highways will be divided into sections of 30km to 50km and reportedly 38 contractors had been appointed to carry out a stretch of 750km from Sipitang to Tawau.

This means that each contractor will get around 30 – 50km of construction work. This, if true, will hamper the establishment of sound construction company specially Bumiputras.

The 38 Bumi contractors will have no alternative, but to sub-contract their contracts to bigger road contractors who have all the supporting engineers and machinery.

The gratitude of the Sabah Government in awarding 38 contractors to undertake construction of the Pan Borneo Highway is commendable but may encourage Ali Baba style of business.

To carry out 20 to 30km a contractor will need a minimum of 10 excavators and 20 ten-tons lorries.

After completion of the 20km road in three years what can they do with these machinery?

It is hoped that the quality of these Highways will not be like those highways and roads that have been built in the past.

Most of these roads have been almost destroyed (hancur).

For example, the Kalabakan-Keningau road which was officially opened by the Chief Minister just a year ago, where 80pc of the roads is being used for carrying logs (kayu balak) on 40 ton lorries everyday.

Similarly, the Tenom-Sipitang road is also almost all gone. Timber lorries running up and down every day.

Only 10pc of the traffic are normal vehicles, 90pc are timber lorries.

These two trunk roads were built at a cost of RM15 billion during Tun Abdullah Ahamd Badawi as Prime Minister and soon will turned into gravel roads.

The Prime Minister confirmed that funds are already being allocated for the Highways and construction should be completed in time. This commitment by the Prime Minister is indeed very good news.

The reality on the ground is very different – contractors have not been paid for years. Take the construction of the dual carriage at Tawau – Semporna or from the Tawau Airport to Semporna. This construction is only about 90km .

After almost four years only 10km has been completed. Similarly, the Penampang dual carriage from Penampang Town to Putatan junction. This was also started four years and only about 50pc completed.

It was noticeable on many occasions the contractors of these roads stopped working for months.

When asked on the slow progress, they claimed they had not been paid for months.

These non-payments by Federal Government include large number of small contractors. They have not been paid for months and years.

Another matter is it is important for Sabah leaders to look at the performance compared to funds being utilised.

It appears that at least in Papar Sabah being allocated billions and billions for road constructions, but only 50pc of the funds have been spent on the ground. The other 50pc is profit for you know who, lobbyists and contractors.

I hope this will not happen to the new road contracts that the PM has announced.

A traveller, Lahad Datu

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