CM gives rural water, electricity development priority attention

PULAU TALANG-TALANG BESAR, SEMATAN, Sept 13: Sarawak is giving priority to water and electricity development in rural areas since these are fundamental needs.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said it had been the state government’s policy to develop both urban areas (which caters to 60 per of the state’s population) and rural areas (the remaining 40 per cent).

“So what I do is whatever money I have, I spent there (water and electricity) first. The other one (urban development) can negotiate later. Strategic urban housing development cannot wait, but for LRT (light rail transit), I postpone first. I spend the money on this (water and electricity first).

“Until this one (water and electricity) is completed, then we continue with the LRT,” said Abang Johari, when asked if the state government was shifting its focus from urban to rural development.

He said his administration also viewed road connectivity as essential, where emphasis is now on the coastal road and other spur roads.

“It (coastal road and spur roads) will take about seven years to do. It costs about six to seven billion ringgit. So one billion ringgit a year,” he told a press conference after officiating at the Handing Over Ceremony of Sarawak Energy Solar System to Sarawak Forestry Corporation at Talang Satang National Park today.

Meanwhile, Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi said Abang Johari had approved RM2 billion to light up the whole of Sarawak by 2025.

He said his ministry had been working closely with Sarawak Energy to bring electricity to the interior areas by using affordable, reliable and sustainable energy sources.

“The last mile will be more challenging, more difficult and more costly. So, I hope Sarawakians would be more patient with us. We are trying to reach out all the way to the interior.

“By the end of 2025, we should be able to cover 100 per cent of Sarawak’s population, providing 24 hours electricity supply,” assured Dr Rundi.

Currently, Sarawak on a whole enjoys 95 per cent electricity coverage, while the rural areas enjoy 91 per cent coverage. The state hoped to cover about 30,400 households that are far in the interior with the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares).

“Let us put into record the fund allocation the chief minister gave us to carry out all those projects that have been delayed. They should be continued even though they are under federal responsibility.

“YAB has given us RM2 billion to allow us to go ahead to light up all the rural areas,” said Dr Rundi.

The state government recently announced RM2.8 billion to provide clean water to rural folk and now RM2 billion to light up the whole state, especially the interior.

With RM4.8 billion for rural infrastructure development and other allocations for road construction, there has been rumours that Abang Johari is shifting his focus from urban to rural development. This is further strengthen by the postponement of the LRT project. — DayakDaily