CM: Sarawak poor as its wealth is in Putrajaya

Abang Johari (centre) receiving a token of appreciation from Jason Tai, the moderator of the “It’s Not Business as Usual” dialogue session organised by Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Sibu today (March 6, 2019). With them is Datuk Abang Abdul Karim, president of Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

By Lian Cheng

SIBU, March 6: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said although Sarawak is the third richest state in the country, it remained poor because the bulk of its wealth had gone to Putrajaya.

“People say we are the third richest after Selangor and Wilayah, yet, inwardly, we are poor. This is something of a paradox … that you are rich but poor. If you are rich, you are rich. If you are poor, you are poor. But the question is, we are described as a rich state but we are poor.

“Of course, all the wealth goes to Putrajaya. The revenue that we get goes to Putrajaya,” he said when meeting Sibu businessmen in the “It’s Not Business as Usual” dialogue session organised by Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry today.

In order to benefit more from Sarawak’s own natural resources, Abang Johari said his administration looked into the Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 and the state’s constitutional rights over its land to look for all activities that require permits.

“We then updated OMO, which let us have a say in the upstream (activities) of our oil and gas.”

On the 20 per cent oil royalty, Abang Johari said it was irrelevant.

“When we look at our constitution, we cannot claim royalty beyond 10 per cent. Therefore, 20 per cent is irrelevant, unless you amend the constitution, which I don’t think we can.”

Since the constitution does not grant Sarawak a favourable position to request a hike of oil royalty from the present five per cent to 20 per cent, Abang Johari said he had to impose five per cent sales tax on oil and gas, which is within the state’s constitutional rights.

He said the imposition of five per cent sales tax on oil and gas coupled with the Sarawak government’s investment in LNG would allow Sarawak to rake in about RM3.8 billion in addition to its annual income.

And with this new revenue, Sarawak would be able to develop its infrastructure such as roads, including the coastal road that cost RM6 billion, bridges such as Batang Lupar Bridge, Batang Igan Bridge and Batang Lassa Bridge as well as provide water and electricity supplies.

He said with the completion of the coastal road and the bridges, it would take only three hours to travel between Sibu and Kuching.

With the provision of roads, water, electricity as well as digital infrastructure, Abang Johari urged the people of Sibu, who are generally known to be talented, to work with the government by venturing into agriculture and aquaculture to open up the surrounding hinterland using new technologies.

The coastal road would also open up the Lower Rajang area, which is known to be suitable for food production, he noted.

Abang Johari also revealed that the state government had placed an order for a cargo plane to transport agricultural products to countries in the region, including Singapore.

In general, he said the state government had increased its public expenditure to RM11 billion to boost its economy; hence, he predicted a five per cent growth this 2019. — DayakDaily