Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin center leading BN candidate Robert Lau to nomination center on May 8, 2010.

SIBU – Sibu’s overall flood mitigation programme might cost more than RM1 billion when fully implemented, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today.

Due to the very huge amount, he said, it needed to be done in phases and might well extend beyond the 10th to 11th Malaysia Plans.

Speaking at a media conference after meeting teachers, parents and members of the parent-teacher association of the SK Agama, Muhyiddin said floods had always been the town’s biggest and long-standing problem.

“This is because, Sibu is on a low-lying deltaic area and its soil type is mainly soft peat. The problem affects most of the town and suburb areas and many schools.

“However, I want to give an assurance that the Barisan Nasional Government is well aware of this natural calamity, and has provided an initial Phase One allocation of more than RM300 million.

“We will continue on until full completion, based on the town’s flood mitigation programme carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,” he added.

The problem has often been raised by the opposition when campaigning in the Sibu by-election.

On another issue, Muhyiddin slammed the opposition for saying the people had to beg the Federal Government for more grants to build and improve schools in the state as the Sarawak United People’s Party could not do much, being a small party.

“The government is always committed to educational development nationwide. In Sarawak alone, we have built about 1,700 schools of all types and spent more than RM4 billion in the process,” said the deputy prime minister.

Similarly, he said, it spent RM1.8 billion annually to pay for the salaries and allowances of teachers of national-type schools, including RM200 million in Sarawak.

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said that education was a sensitive issue that should be kept separate from politics.

Earlier at a dialogue session, he said his ministry was carrying out a nationwide audit on schools to see how it could help to improve their facilities and physical state.

“We cannot possibly improve all schools but we will give priority to the most deserving cases.

“For the government, the country’s education development is very important to its plan to create a very competent and multi-skilled human resources capital,” he said.

Parents, he said, must be strategic partners of the government in achieving this plan.

He said the country still relied on 1.5 million foreign workers now, which he considered to be a large number, in relation to its population of 27 million people.

Muhyiddin said the government had planned to set up more vocational and technical institutions to reduce such dependency. — BERNAMA