By Peter Sibon
ADVANCING the Sarawak rural to narrow the economic and development gap with the urban areas is one of the most challenging task of the present government.
In Sarawak, where about 50 per cent of its estimated population of 2.8 million still dwell in the rural setting, the task ahead is considered daunting.
In order to achieve a developed status by 2030 as envisioned by the present state government, the focus must be on critical areas, where the rural populace can participate in their own economic growth and well-being.
Economist Dr Madeline Berma and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) social scientist, Dr Arnold Puyok, both opined that the state needed to focus on education and advanced income-generating activities to keep up with the global development wave.
“Firstly, Sarawak needs to achieve high economic growth through foreign direct investments (FDIs) to narrow the economic and wealth inequality between regions, ethnic and gender.
“Secondly, there is a need to increase more income-generating opportunities,” Madeline, who is also Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) Sarawak commissioner, told DayakDaily here today.
She strongly believed education as the key to success for the rural community, especially vocational and skills training
“For education, the focus must be on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Equal emphasis must also be put on the skills training for the youth, especially in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET),” she said.
She lauded the state government’s vision to shift the economy to Industrial Revolution 4.0, but pointed the need for the people to prepare themselves in the economic shift to catch up with the rest of the world.
For a quick but pivotal fix, the state needed to provide the rural community with quality infrastructure, as well as good access to education and health.
“The problem is not the rural mindset. The problem is how we treat and develop rural communities.
“They are the most hardworking people but most importantly, is the need to provide them with quality infrastructure and good access to social services,” she said.
On the state government’s drive forward through digital economy, both experts believed such agenda would enable Sarawak to move ahead.
“It will work, provided the hard infrastructure (equipment, network) and soft infrastructure (knowledge, skills) are in place,” she continued.
As for Arnold, who is a senior lecturer in Unimas Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, digital economy is the enabler for Sarawak to achieve its goal as a developed state by 2030.
“Sarawak should focus on its strength to develop economically, such as its agriculture sector, as well as eco-tourism,” he said.
Arnold, a Sabahan, added that there must be a strong and efficient institutions including progressive sound leadership to lead the people at all levels of society.
“There is a need to educate the society at large and ensure there is economic sustainability in the rural areas,” he said. — DayakDaily