Abang Jo confident Sarawak can weather looming global financial turmoil

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Oct 12: Financial experts are predicting that a global financial crisis is just around the corner, what with the US and China being involved in a trade war, the Dow Jones having tanked in recent days, the wild fluctuations in the currency and market sentiments, and worrying signs from the World Bank and other financial institutions.

But in Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg seemed to be rolling out project after project in recent months. Is he not worried about the impending economic uncertainties? Shouldn’t he be saving for rainy days?

Well, the chief minister has a ready answer. He said the state government worships the basic economic rule of “saving in good times and spending in bad times”.

Hence, public expenditure would be increased in bad times to stir economic activities within the state, and that is why many infrastructure projects are being rolled out now, he explained.

Abang Johari prepares to release the balloons to open SIBEC 2018, as Abang Karim (third left), Ting (third right) and Sabariah looks on.
Abang Johari congratulates Ting (third right) for the successful organisation of SIBEC.

“We are giving emphasis to basic infrastructure that is strategic in order for us to activate economic activities, be it in urban and rural areas,” he said in his keynote address at the inaugural Sarawak International Business Exhibition and Conference (SIBEC) 2018 at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today.

The four basic infrastructures in focus are to improve (i) water supply, (ii) electricity supply, (iii) road network, and (iv) digital connectivity.

“Though a lot of funds (will be involved), but in the long run, these investments will give good returns,” he reckoned.

He told those present that the World Bank had indicated that Malaysia’s GDP growth would be about four per cent, though the prediction was above five per cent. Looking at this scenario, he said Sarawak would try its best to use its savings to stimulate economic activities in the state.

“This is the reason why the government has been very cautious (in spending) during the good times so that the savings can be used to stimulate the state’s economy (in tough times). Luckily, we have formed our own bank (Development Bank of Sarawak) to finance our strategic projects, which will give returns in the future,” he said.

Abang Johari reiterated that in good times, his administration would withdraw and let the private sector be the main engine of growth.

He, however, gave an assurance that the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) would act with caution and would look at things with a long-term view.

Abang Johari, accompanied by Unimas vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohamad Kadim Suaidi (right), being briefed about some technology during a walkabout at the exhibition.

“We will implement according to our affordability. You can be rest assured that you will find out what we are going to do during my Budget 2019 speech on Nov 5. It will give a full spectrum on how we will manage our economy and how we manage our funds and the time taken to fully develop the infrastructure mentioned,” he added.

The state government, he said, would manage the state prudently based on three components: investment, consumption and savings.

SIBEC is organised by the Sarawak Business Federation (SBF) to promote business and investment, to support the transformation of Sarawak’s digital economy and to showcase the promotion of digital technology in the state.

Themed “Digital technology drives business”, SIBEC has lined-up 20 speakers from government agencies, business advisory and consultancy services as well as private enterprises.

Among those present the launching ceremony were SBF president Datuk Abang Abdul Karim Tun Openg, SIBEC organising chairman Datuk Philip Ting and Deputy State Secretary Datu Dr Sabariah Putit were present. — DayakDaily