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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, July 27: With infrastructure development heading into high gear to link the whole of Sarawak by 2025, the Orang Ulu community in the highland and hinterland is in the position to kick start the region’s engine to become the key economic contributor to the agriculture sector, much like that of Peninsula Malaysia’s Cameron Highland and Sabah’s Kundasang.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that the vast land size and conducive environment in the highland and hinterland of Sarawak hold great potential for the region to become a key food producer using modern and precision farming to bolster the State’s aim of becoming a net food exporter.
“There are two prerequisites to unlock the potential with firstly, road as well as water and electricity accessibility and secondly, digital connectivity.
“These are being taken into consideration in our planning in the first phase of PCDS (Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030) because accessibility and connectivity is vital and key to uplift Sarawak’s economy and livelihoods of the people.
“Therefore, it is the right time for the Orang Ulu entrepreneurs and professionals to look into the possibility of participating in our long-term plan in that area,” he told a press conference after launching the Orang Ulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OUCCI) at a hotel here today.
Abang Johari pointed out that PCDS 2030, which was launched on Sarawak Day, will inject a total of RM63 billion—M33 billion from public expenditure and RM30 billion from alternative funding—to implement infrastructure development particularly to improve roads and utilities in the first phase between 2021-2025.
The second phase of the PCDS from 2026-2030, he added, will be driven by talent and innovation.
“We are going to upgrade the infrastructures in Baram and the highland areas which will cost a lot of funding.
“In the pipeline is upgrading current roads from Miri to Marudi including the bridge under construction across Baram River which will link to Marudi and lead right up to Mulu and connect to another road from Limbang to Lawas.
“People will have major access to the highland areas through major highways and coastal roads that connect the entire cities and towns in Sarawak from Kuching to Miri to Marudi to Limbang and Lawas. This is to be done between the first phase of PCDS up to the year 2025,” he explained.
This accessibility plus the development of water and electricity utilities and telecommunication network, he continued, will encompass all areas to be developed under Highland Development Authority (HDA) and Northern Region Development Authority (NRDA).
Abang Johari pointed out that there will be huge implications on the economic development in the highland and hinterland of Sarawak especially, to open up and unlock the area with modern and precision farming including adopting Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Everything (IoE), that will definitely increase food production as Sarawak aims to become a net food exporter by 2030.
“Only the highland and hinterland can fight for this (agriculture) because the Orang Ulu community have the land asset, otherwise the land will not be used for economic purposes. These are the ingredients that the OUCCI have to think on how to exploit sustainably.
“We are talking about food security as there are shortages due to climate change and that is why under PCDS, we go for digital economy and infrastructure with emphasis given to environmental sustainability as we have to conserve certain areas and make use of technology to add value into our asset,” he said.
Abang Johari added that the world population, according to a report’s projections, is expected to reach more than seven billion by 2030 with 60 per cent centered in east and southeast Asian regions which is where global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is taking place.
“We have the advantage because we have vast land and less catastrophes. But we must seek to balance the growth between development and environment,” he added.
Another potential area to tap into, he said, is tourism as the natural landscape in the surrounding areas, apart from the Orang Ulu’s rich cultural heritage, can be promoted to the world.
“The OUCCI becomes a platform for the Orang Ulu community to identify the various sectors they can explore and translate into economic opportunities in order to move forward in tandem with our journey towards 2030 as a developed and advanced State.
“The seed of RM10 million is to kick start the engine of OUCCI and after that, with the expertise that you possess, you will be running at a fast speed on your own,” he added.
The State Legislative Assembly Deputy Speaker, who is also the OUCCI advisor, Dato Gerawat Gala, Minister of Utilities Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Srri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Assistant Minister of Rural Electricity Datuk Liwan Lagang, Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau, Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon and OUCCI president Datuk Mutang Tagal were among those present. — DayakDaily