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Efforts are being made to correct the perception of Sabah being one of Malaysia's poorest states, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak) Maximus Ongkili.
He said data collection was being done by his ministry to get the right inputs for the national database on poverty.
"A group is going to Kampung Gana first before moving to other places to gather data and any information gathered will be channelled to the government. However, before any development is done, basic infrastructure must first be improved,” he said in a statement today.
Ongkili said Kota Marudu was picked to kickstart the data collection work after it was named as one of the poorest districts in the state.
The programme is aimed at collecting data as well as educating and guiding local community leaders on how to disseminate information on government aid.
"Kota Marudu is not the poorest district in Sabah. There has been a lot of development over decades here, and people do feel the progress," he said.
Ongkili added that in the lowland areas of Kota Marudu, the rural economy was strong.
"The district has more than 20,000 hectares of oil palm, is the second-largest paddy growing district in Sabah, and has some 10,000 hectares of rubber.
"The local economy is stronger than that of other districts," said Ongkili, who is also the Kota Marudu MP.
However, he said beyond 10km from the town centre, there are many poor who live as "subsistence agriculturists" in the districts of Pitas, Beluran, Kinabatangan, Kudat, Pensiangan, and Keningau.
"Basic infrastructure and modern technology are needed, as well as productive employment for rural youth," he stressed.