By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, May 9: The Sarawak government must be bold in implementing policies to increase state revenues to support development initiatives amid the decline in federal funding and allocation since the 10th Malaysia Plan.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government would need approximately RM154 billion within the next 11 years to put in place all the required infrastructures, utilities and facilities to realise the vision to become a high income, developed state by 2030.
“Over the years, we were dependent on funding from the federal government for development purposes. To date, the federal government has approved an allocation of RM79 billion (since 1963) for development in the state. However, the approved allocation started to decline from the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015) onwards.
“We must be in control of our own destiny. We need to have sufficient funds to finance the development that we have planned for our state. We cannot depend entirely on the federal government for development funding in view of the current political scenario,” he said in his winding-up speech at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting here today.
Abang Johari said the provision of state funding for development had been on the rise and until today, the state had approved an allocation of RM89 billion. This year alone, the state government approved RM9.1 billion for development.
He added that the state needed to look for alternative sources of funding to finance its massive infrastructure development.
“This is one of the reasons why I imposed a five per cent sales tax on petroleum products for export from this year as a new source of revenue to the state.
“We have also established our own development bank that is Development Bank of Sarawak, or DBoS, to finance strategic infrastructure and utility projects. All these are being done for the interest of the rakyat and economic growth,” he added.
Touching on the state’s area of focus, he acknowledged the need to prioritise infrastructure development to speed up economic growth and integrate the state’s economy with other countries.
The government had taken bold steps in implementing massive strategic infrastructure and utility projects, including roads, bridges, water and electricity supplies, as well as telecommunication and connectivity infrastructure.
He said at present, various state agencies were implementing these projects, such as Projek Rakyat, Rural Transformation Programme (RTP), Coastal Road Network, Second Trunk Road, Sarawak Water Supply Grid Programme, Rural Electrification Master Plan and Telecommunication Tower Projects.
Abang Johari added that the state government was intensifying efforts to bring more development to every region in Sarawak.
“While we are focussing on developing infrastructure and utilities to improve the well being of the community, we also need to strengthen the economic foundation in each region. This is in line with our objective to create a balanced regional development throughout the state,” he said.
He said each region in Sarawak had its own competitive advantage. The government needed to formulate a regional plan to address the challenges faced by the regions, capitalise the economic potentials for growth and understand the needs of the people.
The state has undertaken a new approach in regional planning through the establishment of Integrated Regional Samarahan Development Agency (IRSDA) under Samarahan Resident and new agencies under the Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda), namely Upper Rejang Development Agency (URDA), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA). — DayakDaily