bg Jo thanks the community for being a major contributor to Sarawak’s economy, progress
Abang Johari giving his Chinese New Year message.
KUCHING: As the major players in Sarawak’s commerce and industry, the Chinese community in the state has a big role to play in the current government’s effort to strengthen the state’s economy, says Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
He said the Chinese business community had always been a major contributor to commerce, trade and industry in Sarawak, and he believed that they would continue to support the government’s effort to strengthen the state’s economic position with their resources, domestic and international influence and networking.
“We are willing to listen to the needs of our business communities and take steps to increase the ease of doing business in Sarawak like doing away with red tapes and unnecessary procedures,” he said in his Chinese New Year (CNY) message yesterday.
He regarded Sarawak as a land of diversity, not only in its rich nature, but also in the culture, ways of life and beliefs of the people.
“We are always free to practise our culture, tradition and religion. We celebrate and find strength in our diversity, find common ground in our differences. That is the Sarawak that we know today – united and cohesive, that has been an example for the rest of the country to emulate,” he said.
Abang Johari pointed out that when he took over the post of Chief Minister early last year, he decided to take a different approach in building the state’s economy.
He said the state must be economically strong and able to generate more revenue to finance its development towards 2030, as yearly allocations from the federal government were insufficient to fund programmes like development of infrastructure and utilities.
“When I came to office about a year ago, I decided to take a different approach not because I want to be different. I might not get popular with it but I decided to implement policies to strengthen the state’s economy, as I believe we need to transform economically and be strong in our economic front,” he further said.
For this reason, he said Sarawak had put in place various economic initiatives to invigorate the state economy with a view to turn the state into a digital economy within the next two decades, and although the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) contribution to the national economy was the third largest because of its oil and gas, its median monthly household income of about RM4,000 was still comparatively quite low.
“Our current average GDP growth at four per cent annually is not enough to propel us to become a developed and high income economy by then. Experts said we need to average at six per cent per annum if we are to reach the target,” he said.
Among the initiatives undertaken by Abang Johari was the setting-up of Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) and Sarawak oil and gas company Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), to be able to be an active player in the oil and gas industry alongside Petronas within two years.
He pointed out that with the setting-up of DBOS, the state has a new financial model to finance strategic projects to expedite development in certain areas and increase domestic spending in order to generate more economic activities so that domestic consumption can be increased.
He said a bit of the state’s strong reserves should be invested instead of just keeping them in local banks.
“If we do not invest our reserves in viable and strategic economic projects, we would lose the opportunities to use it to develop our economy.
“DBOS and investments in strategic projects are expected to generate some returns and this would provide us with the means to pay back to the state reserves what we have taken out and injected into DBOS as its paid-up capital,” he further explained.
On Petros, Abang Johari stressed that contrary to scepticisms, it will not just be another Production Sharing Contract (PSC) company but one that will operate alongside Petronas and play an active part in the downstream activities of the oil and gas industry in the state.
Besides the setting-up of the methanol plant in Bintulu, the state is also expecting more investments involving Petros and the oil downstream sector, he pointed out.
He added that the state had already signed a term sheet with Petronas to buy a 10 per cent stake in LNG Train 9 in Bintulu and “we are hoping to increase our stake in LNG 3 from the current 10 per cent to 25”.
According to him, the state was also actively taking part in the oil and gas industries within the realm of our written law and the constitution.
“This is the priority of the government now while not forgetting the need to provide our rural people with better roads, schools and other amenities to upgrade the quality of life in our rural areas,” he said.
Abang Johari further said that the state government was also embarking on a programme to establish a state water grid and RM1 billion had been set aside to implement the first phase from Batang Ai to Tanjong Manis.
He said the state has so much water that should be put to good use by supplying water to the people in rural and coastal areas.
He added that the first phase will take off the ground within two years, but the remaining phases that would cover the whole state would take a much longer time to materialise.
He envisaged that some RM6 to RM7 billion would be spent on setting up the state-wide water grid which can be recouped from revenue water, saying that the spending would also have the effect of injecting more money into the local economy.
“We (state government) want this to be a holistic programme to solve our water supply problems which is sometimes ironic because we have so much water, yet some of our ‘rakyat’ are without water especially in the coastal areas,” he pointed out.
The chief minister was also confident that with a strong public spending and Digital Economy Initiatives within the next five to 10 years, the state would be able to open up its economy and generate more consumption that should boost the growth of the local economy in order to be able to achieve a growth of six per cent annually towards 2030.