China’s Belt and Road projects could be used to develop Sarawak’s economy, says Abg Jo

Masing (second left) placing his palm on a gadget to activate a video as symbolic to opening the conference. Also seen is Manyin (left).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Jan 14: Sarawak will be in a lot of trouble if the many local experts and professionals do not get involved in developing the state.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that developing a big state like Sarawak was a formidable task.

“We are doing our best, moving as fast as possible to be on par with the rest of the country and the world,” he said in his address at the 1st International Conference on Belt and Road 2020 held at UiTM Sarawak Campus 2 here today.

Abang Johari was represented by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

The state government, he pointed out, was fully committed to developing Sarawak as it was looking for ways to provide the best infrastructure available.

“Indeed there are many obstacles ahead for us to propel the economy to greater heights and to achieve a high income society.

“We need your (China) help and expertise. We need education institutions to help us in developing our human capital and these institutions can work with other companies and on their counterparts from inside or outside the country,” he said.

Abang Johari added that Sarawak would outsource for available expertise and funding when necessary.

“Collaborations with foreign institutions through research and development will help Sarawak move forward.

“Through such conference, it will be possible for us to achieve our target. We are able to implement and promote the cultural and educational cooperation and exchanges with China, Malaysia and the Belt and Road countries,” he added.

He noted that the Belt and Road Initiative was a significant development strategy launched by the Chinese government with the aim to promote economic cooperation among countries along the proposed routes.

“This will bring new opportunities to all parties encouraged by the flow of capital, goods and services between Asia and the rest of the world through market integration and the establishment of new ties among communities, building global businesses.

“Sarawak will benefit if we tap into the new markets and also those in other Asean countries, the Middle East and finally the Central and Eastern European markets,” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted that there were a lot of untapped potentials in China’s Belt and Road projects that could be used to develop Sarawak’s economy.

“Through projects by Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Sarawak Convention Bureau and Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research, we hope to be able to work together with stakeholders on platform like this conference,” he said.

The state government, he continued, has had many collaborative projects with China including a wide range products and services.

In 2019 alone, he shared that numerous Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were inked including between Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) and Shan Yang International Holdings Co Ltd to collaborate on establishing a pulp and paper manufacturing plant in Sarawak in Samalaju, Bintulu.

Another major collaboration was between Beijing BECA Sci-Tech Co Ltd and Sinopec Engineering Inc with the state government to invest US$5 billion for the development of an integrated oil and gas complex in Lawas which is scheduled to commence production in 2022.

Noting that connectivity has always been an issue for Sarawak, Abang Johari pledged to look into this.

“Just last month, the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) signed an MoU with Hainan Airlines and the company will launch its scheduled Haikou-Kuching-Haikou direct flight beginning March this year.

“With these development and initiative, I am sure we can solve our connectivity issues which wad the main hindrance to our tourism development over the past years,” he said.

Abang Johari expressed confidence that the many projects and other potential Belt and Road one can help to propel and bring Sarawak’s economy to greater heights.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology Research Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong, Rector of UiTM Sarawak Prof Datuk Dr Jamil Hamali and Consul General for the People’s Republic of China in Kuching Cheng Guangzhong were present. —DayakDaily

Masing (seated centre) flanked by Manyin (on his left) and Jamil (right) in a group photo with the participants of the conference.