By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, June 26: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s remark that Sarawak will go bankrupt within three years under Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s (GPS) rule is unwarranted, unnecessary and political in nature.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the Finance Minister should exercise caution with what he says, as such statement would affect the sentiments of investors not only towards the state, but the country as a whole.
This especially considering that the global economy is facing serious downside risks due to trade wars, regional tensions such as in the Middle East, low oil prices and other uncertainties, he pointed out.
Awang Tengah, who is also the state Industrial and Entrepreneur Development Minister, said Sarawak’s contribution to the economic development of the country is quite significant.
By right the state and federal governments should be working together to attract more investments, both Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Domestic Direct Investment (DDI), for the good of the country, he continued.
“Above all, Sarawak is politically stable and financially well managed. Let me reassure you all that Sarawak will not go bankrupt within three years as predicted by the honourable Federal Minister of Finance.
“Sarawak has been rated by international rating agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s for many years and both have reaffirmed the state’s investment credit ratings at A3 and A- respectively,” he said at the Sarawak Domestic Investment Seminar here today.
Awang Tengah reminded that similarly, the Auditor-General of Malaysia has also accorded Sarawak with a clean bill of financial health for the past 17 consecutive years.
“The Sarawak government’s budget has always recorded surpluses for many years, and our budget is always development biased, focusing on productive sectors.
“We have steady sources of revenue, especially through imposition of sales tax on petroleum products for exports. This is a new stream of revenue to the state. We are not entirely dependent on the state’s reserves,” he explained.
He also pointed out that Sarawak continues to be a preferred investment destination, ranking among the top three in the country over the past six years.
Last year, Sarawak recorded a total investment of RM8.6 billion in the manufacturing sector, the third highest after Johor (RM30.5 billion) and Selangor (RM18.9 billion).
“Sarawak continues to attract both domestic and foreign investors due to our business friendly policies and our ability to provide modern infrastructure, as well as competitive power and water tariffs.
“We have abundant natural resources and we are also able to provide land for industrial and large-scale agriculture with attractive premiums and flexible terms of payments.”
Awang Tengah said in order to develop a resilient and sustainable economy towards achieving inclusive and balanced growth, the state government has put in place various development initiatives.
He cited the Sarawak Industrial Development Plan, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), Rural Transformation Plan and the setting up of the Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA), Highland Development Agency (HDA) and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA) as examples.
As a result of these initiatives, the state was able to attract big investments in various sectors such as oil and gas in Bintulu, high tech industries in Kuching, shipbuilding in Sibu and Miri, as well as the energy intensive industries in Samalaju.
The state has also developed its timber-based and agro-based industries and all these have created many employment opportunities for the local workforce and business opportunities for the SMEs, he said.
At a Democratic Action Party (DAP) fundraising dinner here last Friday (June 21), Lim said Sarawak’s RM30 billion reserves would be used up and that the state would be bankrupt in three years if it keeps up with its annual budget of RM11 billion.
The DAP secretary-general’s remark has drawn flak from many state leaders and political parties. — DayakDaily