By Karen Bong
KUCHING, June 21: Sarawak and Sabah could play a pivotal role in the tourism industry as these two Borneon states can become prime destinations not just in Malaysia but within this region.
Highlighting this, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng thus encouraged Sarawakian entreprenuers and tourism operators to invest in improving the development of travel facilities to provide visitors and tourists a more wholesome experience of the destinations.
“With the abundance of natural surroundings and fresh air, Sabah and Sarawak can emphasise on ‘lung-washing’ tourism which is very popular now,” he addressed a press conference after officiating at the launching of the RM1 billion Tourism Infrastructure Fund by Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd (BPMB) here today.
Noting that there were many destinations in Peninsular Malaysia also offering ‘lung wash’ tourism, Lim however said but they could not beat the natural air, environment, biodiversity as well as the flora and fauna found in Sarawak and Sabah.
“As such, we are launching this fund initiative for the first time in Kuching because we need to branch out and increase the access to financing for entrepreneurs and tourism operators (in East Malaysia) as well,” he said.
The fund initiative aims to encourage more industry operators to develop travel facilities as part of efforts to help the nation achieve a target of attracting 30 million overseas visitors to generate RM100 billion in tourism income by 2020.
Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, Deputy Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Chong Chieng Jen and BPMB president and Group CEO Arshad Mohamad Ismail were present.
Lim elaborated that this was a series of facilitation funds introduced by the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in order to encourage entrepreneurs to invest in partnerships with the federal government.
“As you are aware, due to our fiscal constraints, so we are now adopting a new approach called the 4P partnerships working towards an entrepreneurial (driven) economy,” he said.
“The ‘P’ represents public sector, private sector, professionals and people. All of us together developing the economy,” he added.
Lim highlighted that tourism contributed significantly to the economy of Malaysia, with 10.2 million tourist arrivals in 2000 that brought in RM17.3 million in tourist receipts, to 25.8 million visitors last year, contributing RM84.1 billion in tourist receipts.
Touching on the 50 per cent share of tourism tax, which Lim disclosed Sarawak has gotten RM2.5 million as compared to Sabah RM12.5 million, Chong pointed out that the huge difference indicates that more needed to be done to catch up.
He hopes to see more national programmes can be launched and introduced to Sarawak so that more people can be aware and benefit from them.
Under the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, BPMB is offering a competitive financing rate from 4 per cent to 5.5 per cent per annum.
The facility is available through Dec 31, 2020 or until the fund is fully utilised, whichever comes first.
The fund is aimed at providing financial assistance to the dealing with or involved in tourism-related activities and services.
It can be used to finance the acquisition of land, construction of building, to purchase machinery and other assets related to tourism activities, or to part finance the working capital requirement of the eligible companies.
The fund can also be utilised by companies in developing infrastructure that will contribute to the growth of the tourism industry, such as hotels, convention centre, or facilities related to medical and agro tourism.
The fund is a reintroduction of an existing fund managed by Bank Pembangunan, which has recorded a utilisation rate of 69 per cent as at Dec 31, 2018.
It is a series of funds Bank Pembangunan has launched this year as part of a government mandate under Budget 2019 to serve various economic development agendas.
The latest financing facility came after the RM3 billion Industrial Digitalisation Transformation Fund, the RM1 billion Sustainable Development Financing Fund and the RM500 million Public Transport Fund. — DayakDaily