It is expected that the state government, led by Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, will make some adjustments and improvements to policies that have been laid down by his immediate predecessor, the late Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Haji Satem and let them continue.
It will not only be in the name of continuity but to implement the policies that have been endorsed by the people, through a massive mandate that they gave to Barisan Nasional Sarawak in the state election in May 2016.
The 7 May, 2016 polls results showed that Sarawakians of all races and religions supported the state government led by the fifth Chief Minister, the late Datuk Patinggi Haji Adenan Haji Satem, in his fight for higher oil royalty, greater autonomy and the state to be an equal partner in the Federation of Malaysia. His fight is the fight for all Sarawakians.
The ruling Barisan Nasional Sarawak secured 72 seats out of the 82 contested to enable it to command a huge majority in the State Legislative Assembly. Indisputably, Datuk Patinggi Adenan won the overwhelming support of the people of Sarawak, for example, in his pursuit of greater autonomy for Sarawak within the context of the Malaysia Federation.
For example, there will be continuous freezing of timber licences, which was one of the earliest decisions taken by the late Datuk Patinggi Adenan to curb illegal logging, which had been quite rampant over the years.
In this regard, temporary timber licences will be given via transparent tendering process for the clearing of NCR land for development
Sarawak is blessed with abundant natural resources, which the state government is committed to manage in a prudent manner to conserve them for the future generations and to be able to weather any eventualities and uncertainties in the economy in future. The avowed aim is to ensure that the environment is well managed and protected in order to remain clean and pristine.
In this regard, the state government views very seriously the rampant and rising cases of timber thefts, illegal felling of trees, cross border smuggling of timber and other illegal activities that flout the laws of the state. Illegal logging cases rose sharply in 2014 to necessitate the state government to take drastic actions to curb the activities.
The then Chief Minister believed that the illegal felling of trees, smuggling of timber and other illegal activities relating to timber operations that flouted the laws of the state happened because of weak enforcement by the agencies concerned.
Datuk Patinggi Adenan, who was also the Minister of Resource Planning and Environment, was committed to make sustained efforts to stop the illegal logging activities before they went out of control. In this regard, stern actions would be taken against the culprits including personnel of enforcement agencies if they were found to be involved in such activities.
He assured that the campaign against the perpetrators of timber thefts, illegal felling of trees, cross border smuggling of timber and other illegal activities would not just be “flash in the frying pan business” because they were persistent, too.
He reminded enforcement personnel that they were expected to have a high level of integrity, which was the pillar for efficient and effective enforcement.
Now the people, who have been complaining about timber thefts, timber smuggling and illegal felling of trees, have one common theme that the illegal activities are happening because enforcement by the relevant agencies is weak.
Actually, Sarawak has a long history of exploiting the natural resources based on proper legislation in management and land usage. The practice incorporates the essence of economic, society and environment. However, its outlook has changed as it has to respond to the needs and demands of the changing time.
Sarawak had decided long before the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) Mission in the 90s on how best to sustain and manage the forest resources. Coincidently, the state’s decisions coincided with the recommendations by ITTO to make easier for the state to move ahead on the same path with the international organisation.
Environmental protection is the primary concern for the future of humanity. Hence, the state will continue to develop environmentally friendly landfills and waste management facilities as well as to enhance the protection and conservation of lake, water catchment and forest.
In this regard, all water catchment areas in Sarawak will be assessed and gazetted as part of strategies to protect them and drive the forest management certification to ensure that seven areas under the Heart of Borneo initiative will be certified by 2017.
The ability of the state government to convince the Ministry of Finance that it would be best for the country and beneficial to Sarawak that Bakun hydro dam should best be owned and operated by Sarawak was certainly a stamp of approval from the federal leadership on the leadership of Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg as the new Chief Minister of Sarawak.
Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak said he would adopt an open mind in the negotiation on the devolution of power, which would focus on federal laws that had impinged on the state’s rights.
He acknowledged that his late father, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein together with the late Tun Abang Haji Openg, the late father of the Chief Minister, were both members of IGC (Inter-governmental Committee) in drafting and formalising its Report and the Malaysia Agreement.
The Coordinating Committee, comprising senior federal and state officers, on the devolution of power has already agreed on the positions of 13 administrative powers and negotiations are ongoing for the others.
It is imperative for Sarawak, as it enters into a more challenging phase of the development, to focus on structuring and transforming the state economy, not only to attain the status of a developed state with high income economy but also to become the most prosperous state in the country by 2030. This is of utmost importance as the state is progressively moving into the next level of socio-economic development.
Though Sarawak can be quite pleased with its progress and achievement during the last 53 years of Independence, there is still so much more that needs to be done, particularly in transforming the rural areas to catch up with the development in the urban area.
However, the state government will require all necessary efforts of the federal government, especially in providing good public facilities and infrastructure such as schools, clinics, hospitals, roads, bridges and water and electricity supplies in rural areas. The development programmes will require huge investments and the concerted efforts of the state and federal governments.
Obviously, the state, having to operate in a world which is highly dynamic and volatile, must remain focused on the development agenda. Of utmost importance, the state ought to continuously broaden its economic base and upgrade skills, efficiency, productivity and innovation of the work force in order to become more competitive.
Besides, the state must include a more pervasive culture of good governance and uphold the highest level of integrity. At the same time, the people must be agile and vigilant in facing emerging external challenges arising from global regional competitions and the increasing volatility in the world economy.
The state can take great pride for being able to achieve the present level of development, from a backwater to one of the fastest developing states in the country as a result of the ability to manage the resources in a sustainable manner.
The late Datuk Patinggi Adenan, in tabling Budget 2017, his last budget, said it had been fairly distributed to ensure a sustainable and balanced development throughout the state, particularly between the urban and the rural areas.
The government would continue to undertake proactive measures to develop the rural areas, especially those that could be harnessed for their economic potential to contribute significantly to the state economy and benefit the well-being of the people. This would ensure that the rural areas could catch up with the development in the urban areas.
He said Budget 2017 Budget would greater emphasis on developing the necessary infrastructure and amenities such as roads, drainage, telecommunication, electricity and water supplies aimed at improving the quality of life and, at the same time, attracting higher investments to these areas.
He called on all parties concerned to monitor projects closely in order to ensure that they were implemented as planned and within the budget. All programmes and projects, especially those in rural areas are of high impact, which have greater spill-over effects to the people. The projects must be implemented expeditiously to further spur economic growth and the development of the state.
He assured that the government, on its part, would ensure the all projects under the state’s 11th Malaysia Plan, Rural Transformation Initiatives, Federal Rolling Plan, Pan Borneo Highway Project and those under SCORE would be implemented efficiently and completed as scheduled. This is vital to support and sustain the state’s economic growth and development.
He said Budget 2017 would anticipate a Deficit of RM385 million. on the basis of expected total revenue against a total Ordinary expenditure amounting to RM5.706 billion.
Since 2015, he said the state revenue, since had been on a declining trend, significantly impacted by the falling of oil prices and gas prices and the weakening of Ringgit. And at the same time, expenditure had to be on rising trend.
Therefore, the state government must continue to have an expansionary fiscal policy so as to cushion the economic recessionary pressures. The expansionary fiscal policy is also to ensure a continual development momentum to support the state much needed economic and rural development. In this connection, the state government proposed for a higher development budget for 2017 so as to sustain a desired level of economic growth and development.
The state has also taken earlier steps to reduce electricity tariff, land rents and assessment. The measures, besides relieving the cost of living, would also improve disposable income and increase private consumption to sustain economic growth.