Good feedback to post-Covid-19 economic strategy

Datuk Abang Helmi Ikhwan

KUCHING: The Sarawak Chamber of Bumiputera Entrepreneurs (DUBS) and Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) have lauded the Sarawak government’s post Covid-19 economic strategy up to 2030, which was announced by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on Wednesday. 

DUBS president Datuk Abang Helmi Ikhwan described the plan as “timely, well-considered, and well-planned – an excellent response to the current economic crisis caused by the pandemic”.

“A few sectors catch our attention in view of the likely scenario of China overtaking the United States (US) as the world economic leader in the next 10 years; a scenario strengthened post Covid-19 due to China’s ability to emerge from the pandemic faster, and the current distrust between China and US,” he said.

With the background of this international environment, he said it made more sense to push on high-value downstream manufacturing by enticing US plants in China to relocate to Sarawak, adding that Kuching for one had a lot of empty land in its industrial parks.

“In parallel, it also makes sense to push hard and fast on the services hub to cater for global demand. Our focus on data centre and innovation will play a crucial role to support the mentioned sectors,” he said.

He said similarly, high productivity agriculture and commodity sector was also the right focus.

“We have to move away from labour-intensive agriculture, or at least introduce more automation and robotics in sectors like oil palm plantations to reduce reliance on cheap foreign labour,” he said.

As for the new Sarawak Economic Action Council, Abang Helmi said that those in the private sector welcomed it, adding that it was a question of staffing the council with dedicated full-time officers.

“The council secretariat needs to be headed by a qualified economist with adequate experience in government administration. In addition, the right mix of representation from the business sector is important to get the necessary feedback from the ground.”

Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum

Meanwhile, DCCI president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said the chamber fully supported the state’s efforts to get the economy back to full swing once the pandemic was over.

“We also suggest that, arising from the difficulties faced by particularly the rural communities, the state must double its efforts to put in place infrastructures such as digital connectivity, banking, health facilities, good roads, and marketing networks for agricultural products,” he said.

He added that agriculture extension services to farmers had to be revived to expedite modernisation of the agriculture sector.

“Serious attention must be given to making the rural economy more viable. DCCI will give its full support to the state’s endeavour to involve all stakeholders to develop Sarawak towards 2030,” he said.