By Peter Sibon
Today, four years ago, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was sworn in as the sixth Chief Minister of Sarawak after the passing of the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem of heart complications on Jan 9, 2017.
Then, at 66, he was thrust into the limelight when Sarawak was still reeling with the passing of Adenan who was seen as a hero and a fighter for Sarawak for autonomy under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
However, stepping into the big shoes left by Adenan, Abang Johari who is fondly called Abang Jo, was not intimidated as he has more than 40 years of experience, both as an assemblyman and a State Cabinet member.
He immediately charted his grand vision to turn Sarawak into a high-income economy by 2030 with the acquisition of the mega Bakun HEP Dam from the Federal government.
The acquisition of Bakun HEP was the milestone of his administration which is development-based to ensure that every Sarawakian of all races and religions will benefit from the State’s resources.
Soon after taking over Bakun HEP, Abang Jo set up the Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) so that the State’s finance could be properly managed and channel for greater development.
With the setting up of DBOS, the Chief Minister has been able to establish three major agencies, namely the Ulu Rajang Development Agency (Urda), the Highland Development Agency (HDA) and the Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA) to finance micro-projects in the remote areas of Sarawak that have not get enough attention to further boosting these rural areas. since then, billions of ringgit has been channeled to these agencies.
Besides these agencies, the chief minister has also allocated billions of ringgit for the construction of roads and bridges, as well as for water and electricity supplies throughout Sarawak. And with greater accessibility, Abang Jo has slowly brought communication connectivity to these remote areas for the next level of development – the digital economy.
As resources such as oil and timber are slowly depleting, Abang Jo has embarked on the digital economy to ensure that Sarawakians will be able to participate in the global economy through e-commerce.
Besides that, Abang Jo has also laid down the foundations for futuristic development of Sarawak which focus on big data and hydrogen technology. These two sectors have been identified as the new gold mines for Sarawak to further boosting it to become modern State by 2030.
The Chief Minister has also initiated the establishment of Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros) to develop the oil and gas industry in Sarawak.
In his efforts to further diversify the state revenue through alternative financing strategy, Sarawak imposed a five per cent State sales tax (SST) on petroleum products effective Jan 1, 2019, as a new source of revenue to support the state’s development agenda. Through SST, it is forecasted that it will be able to generate some RM3 billion annually for Sarawak’s coffer.
Through this extra income, Abang Jo has been able to channel financial assistance to every Sarawakian especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic. So far, he has allocated some RM2.5 billion to all sectors of the economy and all strata of societies under the Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BSS) stimulus package.
Additionally, Abang Jo has assured Sarawakians that he is the Chief Minister of all Sarawakians and has pledged to carry on with the good policies introduced by his predecessors, as well as formulate new policies that can take Sarawak to greater heights.
Through these policies, he has continued to channel millions of ringgit assist all religions through Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) so that all religions will have descent places of worship.
Through modernisation, the Chief Minister was optimist that Sarawak will be able to achieve developed status by 2030 as it has shifted from a traditional economy to digital economy with the usage of smart technologies in all sectors such as agriculture, tourism, e-commerce, education and health.
With the establishment of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) and the Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC), Abang Jo is now all set to further transform Sarawak’s economy with the introduction of the e-wallet applications such as Sarawak Pay. This will encourage cashless payments for the people to pay their goods and services which has proven to be a hit during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Moving forward, the Chief Minister has urged all Sarawakians to preserve the current peace and harmony among peoples of various races in Sarawak as it will ensure that it will remain politically stable.
With the present existing peace and harmony, Sarawak has been seen as the beacon of hope for the whole country that has been plaguing by political uncertainties.
Thus, it is hoped that Abang Jo will continue to steer Sarawak to greater heights with his own style of leadership to propel Sarawak to a high income economy and a modern State by 2030.- DayakDaily