It is not an easy task to uplift, rebrand or place a small part of the world on the international scene.
However, this is exactly what Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has been doing recently with Sarawak.
In an international media environment, Malaysia has a reputation and high profile for all the wrong reasons. It is good that at least one part of it, Sarawak, is making the headlines for all the right reasons.
Abang Johari has recently been creating waves via some high profile speeches, talks and dialogues abroad.
Last week he was in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, on a two-day visit to engage with the government in relation to their Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Over the years, there has been much talk that Sarawak should have a similar fund. Therefore, it is good to see this ‘talk’ turned into action.
The Premier has gone to the right place to listen to and find out first-hand about the widely acclaimed success of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. This Government Pension Fund Global is also called the Oil Fund, established in 1990.
The fund now has over US$1.35 trillion in assets. In December 2021, it was worth about $250,000 per Norwegian citizen.
His idea of benchmarking a future Sarawak Sovereign Wealth Fund with one that has been managed with the highest standard of governance would give Sarawak much credibility.
In the face of the ongoing saga of 1MDB, the Sarawak Sovereign Wealth Fund should be embedded with rigorous checks and balances and managed with the highest level of professionalism for all in Sarawak.
With the insight gleaned in Norway, our Premier and his team, we should be good to start.
Before Olso, Abang Johari was also invited as a keynote speaker at the World Hydrogen 2022 Summit held between May 9 and 11 2022. His keynote speech was themed “Accelerating the Global Hydrogen Economy: The Sarawakian Way”.
Over 3,500 leaders came to the event to explore the latest hydrogen technologies, applications, and solutions that are revolutionising today’s industries.
Our Premier described Sarawak as a rising tiger in the renewable energy arena.
In his keynote speech, he said Sarawak is ready to embark further on hydrogen economy as it has abundant resources, sufficient infrastructure and expertise, as well as supply and value chains.
“With concerted effort, real initiatives, Sarawak is sending a clear message across the world (that) we want the state to be a region for clean, green investment. We want global low carbon industries serviced by Sarawak supply chains,” he said.
Walking the talk, he said in 2018, Sarawak Energy Berhad, had successfully commissioned Southeast Asia’s first pilot integrated hydrogen production plant with 130kg per day production capacity and refuelling station to cater up to five buses and 10 cars per day.
About three years ago, an energy industry senior executive said to me that Sarawak should not invest in a hydrogen economy and that it was not the correct way forward. Looking at the rapid acceptance of hydrogen as a source of clean energy and based on the many advantages of a hydrogen economy, this executive must be eating his words now.
Abang Johari also spoke as a guest speaker at the S. Rajaratnam Endowment Dialogue (SRED) dinner in Singapore on April 26.
His participation in this dialogue was at the invitation of Temasek Foundation in partnership with the Strait Times and the International Strategy Forum (ISF), one of the flagship programmes of Schmidt Futures. His speech was themed “Economic Developments in Asia and the World”.
He covered important aspects such as our Post COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 and the various new initiatives of the Sarawak government such as digital economy, green economy, hydrogen economy, the autonomous rapid transit, Sarawak Science Centre and commercial agriculture.
All these and many other initiatives, policies and actions have placed Sarawak on a robust platform for future growth in a stable and progressive environment.
It will also help to absorb economic shocks due to potential future black swan events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we will not see overnight changes, we are on the road towards elevating Sarawak’s economy from RM136 billion in 2019 to RM282 billion in 2030.
More critical than placing Sarawak on the map is the Abang Johari’s efforts to uplift the lives of Sarawakians.
Let us all work towards these aims, and remember this at the ballot box.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.