NGO urges Sarawak gov’t to establish free trade zones to spur economic development

Eric Tay

KUCHING, Feb 12: Kuching Team Dynamic, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) proposed that the state government establish free trade zones along the coast of Sarawak to improve industrial growth, boost regional trade and spur local economy.

Its team leader Eric Tay pointed out that despite the vast territory and sparse population, Sarawak possessed a strategic geographical location, facing northward to South China Sea.

“The free trade zones can be set up at appropriate locations along the coast of Sarawak. Manufacturers from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China would be attracted to invest and set up factories at the free trade zones.

“It will not only boost trade and development but also create employment opportunities for our people and cultivate talent in technology among our young generation,” he said in a press statement today.

Tay also hoped that the state government would give priority to establishing a trade and tourism office in Pontianak to strengthen trade with neighbouring West Kalimantan of Indonesia.

“We applaud the state government in its endeavor to set up trade and tourism offices in Indonesia and China in the near future, following the establishment of Sarawak Trade and Tourism Office Singapore (Statos) in June 2019,” he said.

This important initiative, he added, reflected the state government’s ongoing efforts to explore the global market, boost trade and attract more tourists to the Land of Hornbill.

“It’s vital for Sarawak to be forward-looking, in order to be competitive and relevant in global economy,” he said in responding to a statement by Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian at a Chinese New Year dinner gathering here recently.

“During a seminar organised by Federation of Kuching and Samarahan Divisions Chinese Association Sarawak last year, we have voiced out the need to strengthen our trade with neighbouring West Kalimantan considering their large population and increasing spending power,” he added.

However, he said that due to tariff restriction by the Indonesian government, the once-popular bilateral trade checkpoint at Tebedu has stalled in recent years.

“Aside from the office, we hope the government will hold discussion and collaborate with the Royal Malaysian Custom Department to negotiate with Indonesia a trade agreement which is mutually beneficial to both sides.

“This will be extremely advantageous, especially to manufacturers and traders from Sarawak,” he suggested. —DayakDaily