The core structural plan for Kuching City, for the Greater Kuching city in particular, is the public transport system, which will be the catalyst for its future growth.
However, the transport system, with the Light Rail Transit (LRT) as the core, must be complemented by the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), taxis and private cars for the system to be fully integrated in order to provide efficient service to the people.
The key benefit of building a proper public transport system is to lower cost of living for the people with affordable housing combined with cheap public transportation. In this regards, efforts will be made to build communities with schools, food courts and commercial centers around the stations of LRT and BRT.
Obviously, Kuching City must build sufficient capacity to house the expected increase in talents, which will form the critical mass and heartbeat of the city. The development of each mode of public transport system, be it the BRT or the LRT, will be guided by the expected demand and the suitability of each mode to serve the needs of the people.
By designing properly the expansion of Kuching City and the Greater Kuching area, it can ensure that the necessary land areas are set aside for public facilities, especially the public transport system and the parks and greens.
Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari Tun Openg, in his winding speech during the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud for his opening speech, said the LRT will be developed in stages to serve as triggers for the development and growth of Kuching and its surrounding areas.
It can be envisaged Greater Kuching will encompass not just Kota Samarahan and Padawan but also Bako, Damai, Lundu, Bau and Serian Ii the long term. The centre of the proposed public transport system will be Kuching International Airport, which will connect it to various parts of Kuching City.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari said the car ownership in Greater Kuching could rise by 25% from 320,000 to 400,000 cars. But the population of Kuching City and Greater Kuching can grow faster than the current pace of natural growth. The State is at the threshold of getting into the LRT system.
When Kuching is properly planned, with good connectivity in ICT and transport, He believed the natural rate of growth of the population will rise as more Sarawakians will stay back or come back to live as good jobs can be found at home.
The State can also envisage Sarawakians from other parts of the state will come to live in Kuching because good jobs can be found here. Furthermore, foreign talents may wish to come and live and work in Kuching because good jobs can be found here.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari said the challenge for city planning today is how to redesign the city that is attractive to technology-savvy talents of the millenniums, who are very happy to live in small comfortable rooms with just their laptops and their mobile phones; and of course with an internet connection and a good public transport system.
He believed it is possible for Greater Kuching to have a population of more than a million people such as 1.2 or 1.3 million by 2030. This will be a good critical mass for the population and economy of Kuching to grow.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari, who is also the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Urban and Natural Resources Development, said the strategic thinking now is to accelerate the expansion of Kuching City into Greater Kuching by building the basic structure of public transport system, with the LRT as the core.
However, the system must be supplemented by BRT and private taxis for it to be more efficient in the service of the people.
He proposed that the initial basic LRT structure should start at Kuching International Airport. From the airport, the LRT structure should go to Kuching City, Kota Samarahan, Damai, Padawan and Serian.
He said the plan to develop LRT would include building real estate around LRT stations, based on the concept of Transit – Oriented Density development of (TOD). It can be anticipated that the cost of land will be more expensive in future.
If we do not start building LRT now, the Government has to construct more roads, highways and flyovers, which will cost billions of ringgit, in future.
He has learned from Hong Kong and Singapore how the Light Rail Transit (LRT), now at the planning stage, should be done in the city of Kuching.
The planners have been working, based on the study of experts from Hong Kong and Singapore, on the project since early this year and. In terms of planning, Serian and Samarahan are regarded as parts of greater Kuching.
He said cities around the world are competing among them to attract talent by building livable places to stay. The city of London, which many consider as the most vibrant city in the world, has been successful in reinventing itself many times over the years.
London started building a comprehensive underground public transport system in 1890. The London underground together with the regional railway lines going northwards helped in the development of London as a business centre with affordable housing built in the suburbs.
He said the other powerful city brands in the world are Paris, Los Angeles, New York City, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing, which are measured by their assets namely attractions, climate, infrastructure (particularly transport), safety and economic prosperity.
The mentions in social media and media are also important.
Therefore, it is important, if Sarawak wants to jump-start its economy to a higher level, to focus on developing the capital city of Kuching into a world-class urban center, not only for visitors but also for the local people.
Therefore, the State Government must have a long – term of 30 to 50 years, if not 100 years, for Kuching City to grow physically in an orderly manner.
The present generation of leaders may not be around when the vision comes to fruition but at least efforts must be made to lay the foundation for the future generations.
Besides, the history of big cities of the world confirms the idea that their development actually complements and provides growth opportunities in rural areas as the two are inter – dependent. In this regards, rural areas will provide the necessities of urban areas through an efficient transport and logistics system.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari said the State Government was given the approval to establish development bank to be called the Development Bank of Sarawak or DBoS on 31st March 2017.
He thanked the Prime Minister for agreeing to his request to form this important strategic financial institution, which will trigger further economic development for Sarawak.
Traditionally, development banks would devote financial resources to projects deemed strategic by the Government; commercial banks may see no commercial viability in them.
Development banks traditionally borrow from the market or corporate but not the general public in order to fund their operations.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari said the proposed Development Bank of Sarawak would be set up properly and run professionally and DBoS would play a leading role in the development of Sarawak now and for many fruitful years to come.
He assured that the people, who would run the Development Bank of Sarawak, would be professionals and banking experts. The assistance from Bank Negara would be solicited to to ascertain that the proposed candidates would be people with credibility and integrity.
He said the proposed Development Bank of Sarawak, which will be structured in such a way as to limit liability of the State Government from its operational risks, would be wholly-owned by the State Government.
The bank will be funded principally through deposits of the Sarawak Government and its agencies as well as those of big companies through the money market but not the deposits of the general public in the primary money market.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari, who is also the Minister of Finance, said the main role of the proposed Development Bank of Sarawak would be to finance strategic projects for the Government of Sarawak.
It will be in the position to lead in the development of the financial market in Sarawak by encouraging more lending and borrowing in Sarawak in order to stimulate economic activities among the private sector in Sarawak.
Besides, DBoS will also encourage the funding of strategic projects in Sarawak by financial institutions with regional offices in Sarawak. The bank will complement but not compete with the local bank branches so that its resources can be used to leverage more strategic projects as well as to spread the risks of its lending activities.
DBoS will lead the local banking industry in the provision of seed capital to start-ups and new ventures, especially in the area of the Digital Economy, which is believed to be the ultimate weapon for transforming Kuching to become an attractive place for young local and foreign talents to work and live in.
As traditional banking and finance is constantly being challenged by the Digital Economy, DBoS shall play an instrumental role in spearheading the development of digital finance or fin-tech in Sarawak.
In fact, the establishment of DBoS shall provide good jobs within the bank as well as in the economy, especially in the area of cyber security, risk management of capital and other assets management and governance and integrity.
In this connection, DBoS can encourage the investment and ownership by Sarawakians of strategic assets in Sarawak by development investment funds, which can be subscribed by
Sarawakians in the form of bonds and e investment funds
He believed in the longer term DBoS may fund strategic projects outside Sarawak, if needed be, and which may be owned by Sarawakians in order to increase the return on the capital.
He said the proposed Development Bank of Sarawak would be properly established and could come up within the next 12 months to enable Sarawak to take more directed and determined course with prudence always by its side.
Datuk Amar Abang Haji Johari said he would pursue the negotiations with PETRONAS, which were started by his predecessor, to take cognizance of the fact that the negotiation would be carried out within an unfavourable environment when the prize of oil is low and the cost of production is competitive.
Under such a situation, the request of a 20% royalty, though still in the State agenda, has to be managed with care. The Sarawak Government under his leadership is not abandoning the request. Negotiation between PETRONAS and the Sarawak Government will resume on the issue of the oil royalty when the global oil situation improves significantly.
He has decided in the meantime, in lieu of the royalty increase, to pursue the State’s interests in the development of the oil and gas industry in Sarawak. The will negotiate further with PETRONAS ways and means by which Sarawak can participate in both the upstream and downstream activities of PETRONAS in Sarawak.
In this regards, the State Government will form Sarawak-owned commercial entity alongside PETRONAS to explore and produce oil and gas in marginal or brown fields in Sarawak that have feasible potential to produce oil and gas.
Furthermore, Sarawak will also participate in downstream activities. Sarawak has embarked on the manufacture of methanol and its derivatives with the gas assigned to Sarawak.
An agreement was signed on April 22, 2017, based on a pre-feasibility study for a proposed methanol and methanol derivatives plant project, the first methanol plant owned by Sarawak, in Bintulu. PETRONAS has agreed to supply natural gas to the plant and for the sale of methanol from the plant to PETRONAS.
Sarawak Government is actively negotiating with PETRONAS on the details of the shareholders agreement on the 10% equity in the MLNG Plant Train 9.
It is also working with PETRONAS for a larger equity in MLNG 2 plant. Actually, Sarawak’s equity in the MLNG projects is a privilege and not anybody else is allowed to participate in the projects.
PETRONAS has also been directed by the State Government that Sarawak must be consulted on the utilization of gas from any new fields to ensure that its right of refusal in using new sources of gas for the development of oil and gas industries and the development of other industries in Sarawak is being adhered to.
PETRONAS, as the result of several agreements that have been signed, has committed to supply 450 million standard cubic feet per day of natural gas for the power and non-power sectors development in Sarawak.
Furthermore, PETRONAS has committed to a baseline value of RM2.1 billion worth of contracts to be awarded to Sarawak companies each year.
Since 2013, PETRONAS has given RM15.8 billion worth of contracts to Sarawak companies.
The number of Sarawak registered companies with PETRONAS has increased from 314 in 2013 to 420 in 2016.
The State will continue to develop ways and means to enhance the participation of Sarawak companies in the oil and gas industry.