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KUCHING, July 27: It will be a busy few years for the workforce of public utility agencies in the state, as the government embarks on implementing several major infrastructure and rural development projects.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said it would not be relying solely on funds from the Federal Government as it looks to expedite the implementation of several major utilities and infrastructure projects for the rural communities in Sarawak.
“Our weakness is that we depend so much on funds from the Federal Ministry of Rural Development, and as indicated by our Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, the funds only come in October, which is too close to year end, and by next year the funds are depleted.
“We can’t depend on Federal anymore. We use our own funds, such as the RM2 billion, which I’ve announced recently to implement water supply projects to stress areas around the state,” he said during the Utility Achievement Award Night 2018.
Abang Johari said the state would also be funding its rural electrification projects.
“If we manage to provide these two essential services (treated water and electricity), we can move forward because agriculture activities need water. Precision farming, as we transform the state to digital economy, also needs water. Then there is the question of sensors, Internet of Things, digital equipment and devices which would need electricity to work.
“Providing water and electricity supply is very important. Then we can employ technology in terms of production. With this important prerequisite and ingredients in place, only then we can transform Sarawak into progressive and forward looking state within Malaysia. This is my hope,” he added.
On that note, Abang Johari complimented Sarawak Energy Bhd for implementing the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (SARES) which is helping to power up rural areas.
“This is a noble idea although initially it was supposed to be jointly funded between the Federal and state governments. But apparently according to Sarawak Energy group chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili, the Federal has yet to release any funds. So the state has to near the cost of everything. I told Sharbini to just to proceed, if they (Federal government) don’t give then never mind as we the state government will try very much to take money from our oil and gas royalty.
“We and the rural folks cannot wait. So our job is to find the funds for all those projects. If the Federal government is not providing any, then nevermind as the state government can make use of its resources (oil and gas). Sarawak is actually quite rich but unfortunately somebody else has been benefiting from our wealth.
“Therefore we must fight for that even though we were brought to court. Our priority is the people of Sarawak,” exclaimed Abang Johari.
He also said that he had written a letter to the Finance Ministry that if it did not have the funds for infrastructure development in Sarawak, the state was willing to loan it up to RM1 billion.
“With the condition you must pay back the loan,” Abang Johari added. — DayakDaily