Speech to the Head of State
Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud and Toh Puan Datuk Patinggi Hajah Ragad Kurdi Taib, on behalf of the rakyat, I would like to thank Tun and Toh Puan who are willing to be present with us to commemorate such an important day for Sarawak.
As a native of Sarawak, Tun was also one of the leaders who played a major role in the historical events of July 22, 1963, when the British handed over power to Sarawak to self-rule.
Heartfelt thanks to Tun and other leaders who had contributed to ensuring Sarawak was free from the shackles of colonialism and became a state that was able to shape and determine its own future.
No one understands the sentiments, culture and traditions of our society other than we, ourselves. Although Sarawak is populated by people of various races and religions, its rakyat are able to remain united through the efforts and wisdom of leaders like Tun.
Tun is a symbol of Sarawak’s unity. As a Head of State, Tun carries out this responsibility while giving full trust to the existing state government to govern the state.
Thank you once again to Tun and Toh Puan for being able to be with the rakyat here this evening to celebrate this very special occasion for us Sarawakians. The presence of both of you makes it more meaningful to all of us here as well as millions of fellow Sarawakians who are currently watching this live stream event on TV and social media platforms globally.
Recalling the events of July 22, 1963
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming together with us to celebrate this very historic day for all of us, Sarawakians.
Although this year’s celebration is quite different from those of previous years, the current Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) are not barriers for us to celebrate and commemorate the historic date of July 22.
Today, it has been 57 years since the British handed over administrative power to the people of Sarawak to govern their own state. At that time, the late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan was entrusted to lead the state.
I was only 13 years old when this happened. Back then, I knew something very important was going on as I could see the flurry of activities and important people coming and leaving our house to see my late father Tun Datuk Abang Openg who has been appointed the first Governor of the self-ruling Sarawak.
Today, people like me and most of you here have inherited this legacy of our forefathers who had envisioned a better future for the generations after them. It does not work if we don’t work hard. Now, we are duty-bound to build on what we have received from our forefathers and there is no other way for us to do it except for us to unite in a common goal towards creating Sarawak Cemerlang.
Towards Sarawak Cemerlang — The foundation
Fast forward from 1963 to the more modern era of Sarawak. The power to govern the state that has been handed over to natives of Sarawak has given us the space to build a solid foundation to ensure that Sarawak can become a developed state.
The Sarawak government has administered and managed the economy and natural resources well to be able to expand and diversify a strong economic base while creating large financial reserves.
Now, we are in the era of digitalisation where economic prosperity rests very much on the power of technology.
Just this afternoon, I was briefed on the progress of the Miri City Hall project, including the plan to turn Miri into a Smart City. To achieve this, Miri City Council will be adopting technology in line with the Digital Economy aspiration.
We have all the criteria to be a prosperous state which must be grounded upon a sound economic policy and the unity of Sarawakians.
A few months after I was appointed to lead the state, I took over the Bakun Hydro Dam with a worthwhile offer that allowed us to have full power over the source of sustainable energy (or renewable energy) which is so important for economic and industrial development.
This sustainable energy is the catalyst for the development of heavy industries such as aluminum and ferro-alloys under Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), especially in the Samalaju Industrial Park. To date, Score has generated investments of RM39.94 billion and created 18,000 jobs.
Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS)
As everyone knows, Sarawak has prudent financial management — for which it has also received excellent recognition from international rating agencies — thus enabling us to have relatively large reserves.
In order to achieve infrastructure development equivalent to the states in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak desperately needs a larger development budget which, at the same time, can increase our economic growth.
A responsible government will ensure that its financial savings are always stable and strong. Thus, we will not arbitrarily implement any infrastructure projects that could affect the position of our financial reserves.
Starting from here, an initiative was born to create alternative funding based on models such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Development Bank of Singapore.
DBOS was established in April, 2017, focusing on infrastructure development. DBOS has also enabled the government to implement various strategic projects in the Upper Rajang Development Agency (Urda), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA) areas with a total financing of RM4.5 billion.
Regional and rural development
The government has allocated a total of RM5 billion to implement infrastructure projects, which are ongoing, such as roads and bridges as well as water and electricity supplies, especially in rural areas to provide comfort for the rakyat.
I am thankful that most of our rakyat have already enjoyed water and electricity supply facilities. Currently, the coverage of treated water supply has reached 83 percent while the coverage of electricity supply is 97 percent.
Petrochemical sector development — Petros
Sarawak has the largest natural gas reserves in the country, accounting for 54 percent of the country’s reserves. I am very confident the future of Sarawak’s hydrocarbon industry depends on our state’s ability to empower the downstream gas industry to produce petrochemical products.
Therefore, the Sarawak government has set a policy where at least 45 percent of gas production in Sarawak will be maintained in the state as a feedstock to the petrochemical industry, especially in Tanjung Kidurong, Bintulu.
A 1,000-acre site in Tanjung Kidurong is being developed as part of the efforts to make Bintulu a petrochemical industry hub.
Construction work on the RM3.74 billion petrochemical plant to produce methanol has already begun. This is proof of the seriousness of the state government under the leadership of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) in empowering the petrochemical industry and making Sarawak a major downstream producer of oil and gas.
Several international multinational companies have expressed their commitment to invest in the petrochemical industry in Bintulu. A company has submitted plans to the government to invest some RM24 billion in Tanjung Kidurong. We will ensure that its plans become a reality in the next five to 10 years.
Bintulu petrochemical hub is expected to be able to generate RM16 to RM20 billion to Sarawak’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) and create 74,000 jobs. Petros will play a big role in developing the downstream gas industry in the state.
In addition to the petrochemical industry, the Samajaya Industrial Zone will also receive an investment of RM20 billion for its electronics industry while the Samalaju Industrial Park will receive RM17 billion for its steel industry.
Agriculture and food production industries
The government believes that Sarawak’s economic strength also lies in the food production industry for export purposes. Our state has extensive land and I am confident that with the application of modern agricultural technology, we will be able to produce large-scale agricultural products for commercialisation.
The government will work to establish a marketing mechanism and compliance with high standards so that there is a guarantee that the agricultural production by our farmers has a fixed market and will be accepted internationally.
We also do not forget the important role of the creative industry to generate our economy. God willing, in the not too distant future, we will be able to provide a platform for our creative industry enthusiasts to showcase and monetise their work.
Hopefully, by the end of this year, if everything goes well, TV Sarawak will start its technical trial as the state has been granted a 10-year licence by the Multimedia and Communication Ministry to operate a TV station in Kuching.
Sarawak Media Group (SMG), a state government-linked company (GLC), will manage and operate the TV station which will provide broadcasting services as a free-to-air channel, online publishing and information provisioning services. I would like to call for all our local creative industry players to grab this golden opportunity once TV Sarawak is fully operational.
Aspiring for a six-eight percent growth is not impossible
With strong and far-sighted planning, the state Cabinet ministers and I are confident that Sarawak is heading towards an era of glory, becoming a developed and high-income state by 2030.
With a total budget of RM20 billion in two years, our local economy will be injected with massive fund for public expenditure. This for sure will increase consumption in the economy that will be able to prop up the economy.
Apart from that, if the foreign investments were to be considered in our local economy, there will be another RM61 billion injection in the next five to 10 years.
I am confident that with these combined injections of capital into our local economy, Sarawak is capable of achieving its aspiration of six-eight percent annual growth towards 2030 although the post-Covid-19 challenges would make it a tall order for us.
Nevertheless, on a more positive note, the challenges brought about by the pandemic have opened up new business opportunities to many besides expediting the development of digital economy.
I have also formed the Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC) to look into the policies, strategies and action plans for Sarawak to undertake aggressive economic reform for the next five to 10 years. This is our hope and it is the way forward towards Sarawak Cemerlang.
To alleviate the burdens borne by the rakyat due to the Covid-19 as well as to appreciate frontline personnel and security forces, low-income groups, traders and hawkers, the government has introduced 27 initiatives worth RM2.55 billion under Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) 1.0, BKSS 2.0 and BKSS 3.0. Of this amount, RM1.6 billion is a direct fiscal injection from the government.
The government always pays attention to the welfare of the rakyat, especially the needy. Appropriate assistance will be provided to ease their burdens.
Last year, the RM1,000 Sarawak Endowment Fund, given to each Sarawakian child born in the state, was introduced. The amount can only be withdrawn on their 18th birthday for their education or as an investment capital to start a business. Starting this year, the RM450 one-off assistance has been implemented to assist mothers in Sarawak in post-natal care after giving birth as well as to ease the burden of their families.
In addition, I have also recently launched the free school bus programme in Kuching which will benefit 3,000 students. It will be expanded to Miri, Sibu and Bintulu in the near future.
Unity — pillar of excellence
The National Unity Minister, who visited Sarawak recently, praised the close ties between the races in our state. We have established Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) to safeguard the interests of religions other than Islam.
Unity between races and religions in Sarawak is the best example in Malaysia. Let us not view it as a trivial matter and don’t ever engage in any activity that intends to break this strong unity.
I am the Chief Minister for all races in Sarawak. Thus, it is my responsibility to safeguard the rights and interests of all Sarawakians.
Political stability also plays an important role in the development of the state as it is able to give confidence to investors to come and invest in the state. Political differences should not create a commotion (as is happening all over the world today) because it only harms us all.
This is our hope to transform Sarawak into a developed state by 2030. If all our plans go smoothly, InsyaAllah, I am confident Sarawakians will have high incomes with a digital technology-based economy.
On this occasion, I would like to once again express my deepest gratitude to Tun and Toh Puan who have been willing to spend their time with the rakyat this historic evening.
Let us all pray that Sarawak will continue to excel, InsyaAllah.
Happy Sarawak Day.