Outstanding five newsmakers of the year in Sarawak

• Sarawak government quits Barisan Nasional

The Barisan Nasional (BN)’s reign in Sarawak came to an end with the departure of four of its party strongholds — Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu Sarawak (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) — to set up their own coalition, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Chief Minister and PBB president Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg told a press conference on Jun 13 this year that the decision was made after much deliberation, reflection and due consideration, taking into account the country’s current political development after the 14th General Election (GE14).

• GPS takes Sarawak in a new direction

Sarawak has a new ruling coalition after the state’s four previous BN component parties left the former ruling coalition to form Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

Chief Minister and Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) Abang Johari said GPS would not join Pakatan Harapan but would “cooperate and collaborate” with the federal government on issues of national interest and state rights.

Moving forward from GE14, he said, it was “timely and appropriate” for Sarawak to have a new political platform to face the challenges ahead in line with the changing aspirations, needs and demands of Sarawakians.

• Biggest ever budget in history

Chief Minister Abang Johari has kept to his word of a rural development-biased 2019 State Budget by proposing a substantial allocation of RM9.073 billion for development expenditure, of which RM6.049 billion or 67 per cent will be provided for the development of rural areas.

Johari said the amount was much higher compared to RM2.982 billion in 2017 and RM3.062 billion in 2018, thus making it the biggest provision for development in the history of Sarawak.

He also pointed out that contrary to what some had perceived, none of the funds from the state’s reserves was touched for this budget.

According to him, the 2019 State Budget proposal is indeed “an extraordinary budget”  because not only will it have a large development budget but it will also see a record revenue as Sarawak taps into a new major revenue stream.

  RM1,000 one-off incentive for newborns next year

Abang Johari,  who is also the   Finance and Economic Planning Minister,  encouraged Sarawakian couples to have more babies so that there are many strong and clever Anak Sarawak to defend the state.

He also announced a RM1,000 endowment  fund for every Sarawakian born, regardless of ethnicity, religion and social status, from the first day of next year.

The fund will be invested by the government and the amount can only be withdrawn on their 18th birthday firstly for their education.

  Sarawak’s first LRT ready by 2024

Sarawak’s first Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, covering the state capital plus the Samarahan and Serian divisions, is expected to be operational by 2024.

Chief Minister Abang Johari at a press conference on Mar 29, 2018 said the route will be divided into three lines, namely the Kota Samarahan-Sungai Batu-Damai, the Serian-Siburan-Senari and the City Dispersal Line. The project is estimated to cost some RM10.8bil and will create over 20,000 jobs when fullly operational.

Travel time from Kota Samarahan to the city will be cut in half from the normal trip of around 90 minutes during peak hour.

However, in early August , Abang Johari said Sarawak’s proposed LRT system would be implemented based on need following a review by the state government.

According to him, although the LRT master plan had been done, the state government also needed to give priority to basic infrastructure development in rural areas.

As such, Abang Johari said the LRT would likely be implemented only if there was a real need in highly congested areas based on the master plan.