Roads, bridges, utilities projects to resume immediately once given green light

Abang Johari (right) and Abdul Latif interacting in real-time on Post Covid-19: Sarawak The New Normal on webinar.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 9: The implementation of all infrastructure projects, including those ongoing, approved by the state government totalling nearly RM30 billion will start immediately once the green light is given for most economic sectors to resume in Sarawak.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg emphasised that as Malaysia including Sarawak was now entering the recovery phase of Covid-19, Sarawak was preparing itself to tackle the economic problems both over the short and long term.

“When Covid-19 happened, all the projects that have been approved by the government with some in the midst of implementation, particularly construction of roads and bridges, utilities, supply of water and power as well as rural transformation projects were stopped over the past three months.

“For the short term approach, as the economy opens in stages, we will continue with the implementation of these projects including the Pan Borneo Highway. This will help spur and stimulate the economy immediately.

“With the infrastructure projects (to be implemented) until 2021-2022, the impact on the state’s economy will be positive,” he said.

Abang Johari highlighted this in the Post Covid-19: Sarawak The New Normal webinar organised by Malaysia Productivity Corporation (MPC) today.

On June 11 (Thursday), he is expected to launch the Batang Krian and Batang Saribas bridges which complement the coastal road construction projects.

For long term planning, Abang Johari acknowledged that Sarawak has to relook at projects for the future in line with its target to emerge as a developed state by 2030.

For that, he pointed out that the Sarawak Economic Action Council (SEAC) had been formed with its members comprising academics, professionals and the private sectors to draw up a post-Covid-19 economic strategy up to 2030.

“Following this Covid-19 crisis, we feel that the original plan under 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) is no longer relevant due to the new normal which has and will change the economic landscape.

“We need to undertake new economic approaches for the long term interest of Sarawak as well as the country as a whole.

“They (the Council) will study in detail 10 key sectors and submit their findings and recommendations to the state government by September,” he elaborated.

Moving forward, Abang Johari reiterated that Sarawak would develop its economic, social and government sectors based on two core principles of digitalisation and environmental sustainability.

The 10 sectors are data centre and innovation, education and human capital development, renewable energy, basic infrastructure, commercial agriculture, manufacturing including entrepreneurship, mining (oil and gas industry particularly petrochemical), forestry, tourism and services (social sector).

Noting the disruptions brought by Covid-19 not only to economies but also lives and societies, Abang Johari said Sarawakians have to quickly adapt and embrace the new normal in order to move forward.

“Sarawak has to relook at how to bring about recovery to sectors affected by Covid-19 with tourism being the hardest hit followed by manufacturing and services sectors as there were no activities for the past three months due to Movement Control Order (MCO).

“With that, the state government injected about RM2.3 billion worth of stimulus packages under Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) to supplement the federal government’s initiatives in dealing with the impact of Covid-19 crisis.

“This is to create some kind of buffer for people affected by the pandemic particularly the self-employed, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and healthcare services,” he added.

MPC director-general Dato Abdul Latif Abu Seman moderated the webinar.—DayakDaily