As they say, all have been said and done; the people have decided and their decision must be respected. Admittedly, to some the people’s decision is difficult pill to swallow. As for the first time, since Independence more than 60 years ago, the people decided to change the Federal Government and nine state governments.
Sarawak, which held its State elections in May 2016 only took part in the parliamentary elections for 31 Parliamentary constituencies. PBB as the backbone of Barisan Nasional Sarawak contested in 15 seats and lost one to PKR, while SUPP contested seven seats and lost six to DAP, PRS contested six seats and lost three, two to Independents and one to PKR.
The People Democratic Party (PDP) contested five seats and lost two, one to DAP and the other one to PKR. Sarawak, which suffers a net loss of 10 seats, appears to be adjusting quite well to the new situation being in the government at the State level and the Opposition at the Federal level.
Generally, the people take great pride that Sarawak has been able to achieve the present level of development, which reflects their resilience and the strength, our social unity and political stability.
Sarawak has always been a good example where the people, comprising of various ethnic groups and diverse backgrounds learn to celebrate diversity with ease. The unity of cultures and harmonious relationships among the people has become their way of life.
The people in Sarawak, comprising about 30 ethnic groups and diverse religious beliefs, have very colorful backgrounds and a long tradition of living in peace and harmony with each other. They respect each other religions including Christianity with its universal value of peace to the world and peace and goodwill among Mankind.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that the people of Sarawak are often being referred to as a model of friendly and harmonious society; even the capital city of Kuching is being acknowledged as the City of Unity.
Generally, the people have reached a level of interaction that can build a community to achieve greater peace, prosperity and harmony and happiness for the members ahead to keep Sarawak’s harmonious and peaceful way of life.
Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Johari Tun Openg, has said Sarawak’s economy is growing but efforts must be made to get into the digital world, which has been growing by leaps and bounds, if Sarawak wants to get out of dependence on natural resources and create good jobs for the people, young people in particular.
He said the city of Kuching will take the lead in the development of urban centers. For example, efforts must be made to increase and intensify of the development of urban centers so that a good public transport system based on the LRT but complemented by the BRT, private taxis, private cars and cyclists can be built. In this regards, attention must be focused on the creation of new housing areas to cater for a faster increase in the population.
Sarawak Government will spearhead the digital development but will leave it to the private sector and the young entrepreneurs to do whatever they can do best to make a living and a name for themselves.
Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Johari said there is still a lot more that needs to be done in Sarawak, which is almost the same size as Peninsular Malaysia. But transport infrastructure development is critical to support the economic development and social advancement of the State.
Therefore, the provision of a good road network is one of the key elements to develop the economy and is being reflected in every Five-Year development plan. The State is served by a road network of about 31,000 km during the Tenth Plan as compared to approximately 21,000 km in the Ninth Plan.
In this regards, the State Government will provide the necessary incentives to help young start-ups to formalize their operations. For example, efforts will be made to encourage greater digitalization and more automation, especially in the city centers, agriculture, manufacturing and services, including tourism.
The State will use the availability of energy to attract global digital companies to host their operations in Sarawak. However, efforts must be made to upgrade digital infrastructure to world class level.
In this regards, efforts will be made to connect rural villages in order to bring tele-medicine, e-learning and e-commerce to the people. The growth of the rural areas will be accompanied by the development of transport and logistics of Sarawak, to ensure that the development becomes complete supply chains.
Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Johari said the State Government acknowledges that Sarawak is still lagging behind in terms of infrastructure development although a lot of efforts have been made to address this issue. Besides, the rural areas, where about 49 % of the population still resides, are still largely deprived of basic needs such as roads, water and electricity supplies and accessibility to healthcare and education.
The State Government, taking cognizance of key challenges and issues being faced by the State, is taking steps to address them by formulating a long-term development plan known as Sarawak Socio-Economic Transformation Plan (SETP).
SETP is a comprehensive, integrated and balanced plan with the primary objectives to accelerate income growth and reduce income disparity. The Plan, which covers all sectors of the economy, outlines various strategies, action plans and budgets to enable Sarawak to catch up with the rest of the states in the country to achieve high income and developed State status by the year 2030.
SETP, which covers a period of 15 years from 2016 until 2030, will be carried out in phases. The first phase which is estimated physical from 2016 until 2020 will be implemented under the Eleventh Plan. Under SETP, a total allocation of about RM180 billion is required to transform the State from all perspectives.
For Sarawak to achieve a high income status by 2020, it needs to grow at 8.5 per cent in real GDP. With this 8.5 per cent growth rate, the Real Growth National Income per capita by the year 2020 is RM50,600, about RM1,100 above the World Bank’s definition of High Income Nation.
However, this growth scenario is not possible taking into consideration the uncertainties in both the global and national economies. It is important for us to be practical and realistic in projecting our economic growth.
For this reason, under the SETP, the State is projected to grow at 6.5 per cent per annum, a more conservative figure, to achieve a high income status by the year 2030. This is far more realistic as compared to 8.5 per cent growth per annum if Sarawak is to achieve a high income status by the year 2020.
With a projected growth rate of 6.5 per cent per annum, the nominal Growth National Income per capita by the year 2020 is RM44,100 which is still below the World Bank definition of a high income nation. However, by the year 2030 the nominal GNI per capita will reach RM82,600. This will exceed the minimum threshold of a high income nation at RM79,000 by the year 2030.
For this purpose, the State through the framework of SETP will focus efforts on creating high-income opportunities in new potential sources rather than diluting attention on marginal improvements in old industries. Private investments will be the main driver in the new sources of growth leveraging on the non-oil industries with the Government acting as facilitator to explore these potentials.
Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Johari said the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, in line with SETP, has the main goals to raise the income level and to reduce the income disparity of the people. The State is projecting an economic growth of between 6 to 7 per cent per annum.
The nominal GDP is expected to increase from RM122.5 billion in 2015 to RM171.3 billion in 2020. During the same period, the nominal GDP per capita is also expected to increase from RM46,489 to RM61,406 with all sectors are expected to register positive growth.
The key drivers of growth are construction, services and manufacturing sectors. In terms of sect oral growth, the services sector is expected to play a very significant role. This sector is expected to contribute about 41.3 per cent to the State GDP growth. The services sector will be driven by the growth of finance, insurance, real estate and business services at 11.1 per cent and wholesale, retail, accommodation and restaurant at 10.4 per cent.
The State, in order to achieve the objectives of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, will focus on 6 strategic thrusts namely to Strategize economic growth; Strengthen growth enablers; Transform the rural areas; Ensure sustainable environment and resource management; Develop human capital as the catalyst of growth; and Enhance the quality of life.
Efforts will be taken to transform the State economy from commodity-based to more value added economy. This will be achieved through industrialization, capitalizing on the availability of natural resources in the State. Besides, steps will be taken to ensure that the processing of natural resources up to finished products is carried out in the State to meet the global supply chain.
In this respect, the timber industries will be further developed to ensure more downstream activities are carried out to produce high value-added finished products to meet the global market. Steps will be taken to reduce the export of logs to strengthen the development of these high value-added downstream activities.
There is a huge demand for food in the global market especially for fruits, vegetables and livestock. For this reason, Sarawak, with sufficient arable land, has the potentials to be one of the primary producers and suppliers in this region. However, efforts must be made to transform agriculture sector through greater private sector participation in order to achieve the objective.
Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Johari said the State Government has identified areas in the State that can be developed into food basket and agriculture production zones that will fit into the global supply chain. Efforts will also be made to develop more agriculture supporting infrastructure and to strengthen transportation and logistics facilities.
The State government will encourage the establishment of more export oriented industries in view of our small domestic market. It will also intensify efforts in providing the right eco-system to attract more investment, improving the services delivery to facilitate investment as well as developing the human capital to meet the requirements of the industries.
The State government, acknowledging that Bumiputera entrepreneurs still need assistance and guidance, will continue to implement various initiatives including trainings, incentives, business facilities and financial assistance to strengthen their participation in commerce and industries.
Besides efforts will be made to provide more opportunities for the low income group to improve their livelihood through various measures and programs that will increase their level of income.
The State government will intensify efforts to develop the growth enablers namely roads, airports, ports and utilities such as water, electricity, telecommunication and ICT infrastructures, which are critical ingredients to facilitate business and investment activities.
Accessibility to the hinterland areas has to be developed as they have enormous economic potentials to be tapped. The State government acknowledges that private investment is the key driver for any successful and vibrant economic development initiatives.
However, the private sector needs efficient and adequate transportation, logistics and trade-related infrastructures and services to ensure competitiveness. Under the Eleventh Plan, improving and expanding road networks are one of the State’s main focus areas. This initiative will be carried out through the implementation of projects such as Pan Borneo Highway, coastal roads, urban roads, rural roads and bridges.
Rural transformation, as the third thrust, is very important as 49 per cent of the State’s population resides in the rural areas. Besides, the vastness of rural areas represents great opportunities for economic development particularly in the agriculture and tourism sectors. Therefore, it is imperative for the Government to provide both economic and social opportunities to the rural people by developing these areas to realize their full potentials.
Eco-tourism will be further developed by leveraging on the existence of large stretches of natural rainforests, water bodies, islands and man-made lakes of hydro electric dams that can be developed as resorts. The diverse cultural heritage and handicrafts of rural communities can be further developed and promoted to attract more tourists to the rural areas.
The environment and natural resources including marine resources must be protected and managed in a sustainable manner. Hence, the development policy must strike a balance between development needs, environmental protection and the interest of people. Any activities that can jeopardize the quality of environment and sacrifice the future of the younger generations must not be allowed.
All developments must be carried out in accordance with the approved laws, rules and regulations. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approvals for major projects must be obtained first before they can proceed with implementation during the planning stage.
Of equally important, the agencies involved must conduct periodic checking and enforce the laws to make sure project proponents comply with the EIA approvals. These are critical to ensure that the proposed developments will not damage the environment, cause losses of revenues to the Government and are not detrimental to the livelihood of the people.
The State government will take steps to strengthen sustainable forest management practices through better management and control of logging activities, especially in the Permanent Forest Estates (PFE) for the purpose of sustainable logging.
In this connection, efforts will be intensified to protect rainforest and maintain eco-system, through the establishment of more Totally Protected Areas (TPA) like national park, animal sanctuary and salvation areas.
Human capital, as the fifth thrust, is to develop human capital as the catalyst of growth. The State Government is committed to develop human capital to ensure the people are highly knowledgeable, skilful, creative and innovative to meet the demand of manpower from all sectors of the economy especially from new industries.
Under the Eleventh Plan, more technical training institutions will be built to include the Centre of Technical Excellence (CENTEXS) and Sarawak Skills Development Centre (PPKS). The programs and activities to enhance awareness on the importance of technical education among youth will be carried out through the Tabung Ekonomi Gagasan Anak Bumiputera Sarawak or TEGAS.
Efforts will be intensified efforts to ensure there is a balance between economic and social development objectives as part of the overall efforts to enhance the quality of life of the people. This will be done by putting peoples’ interest first in the development agenda.
These include the provision of affordable housing, upgrading of public transportation system and disbursement of welfare assistance. Besides, various programs will be implemented to raise their level of income through job placement schemes, entrepreneurship development and skilled trainings.