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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 13: Sarawak State Budget 2019 is development-biased and rural-focused with 67 per cent or RM6.049 billion of the total development expenditure of RM9.073 billion allocated for projects and programmes for the rural areas.
This strategy, Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh explained, is pivotal in meeting the state’s aspiration to accelerate its development to be on par with that of Peninsular Malaysia as well as narrowing the development gap between urban and rural areas.
“It will also help improve the wellbeing of the people, especially the rural community, and achieving the vision of a high-income state by 2030,” he told the august House in his winding-up speech today.
The state, he emphasised, is set to achieve this aspiration by stepping up the implementation of high impact and people-centric projects.
“This is to open up more rural areas for productive economic activities and providing greater job opportunities for our youths as well as to enhance the livelihood of our rural community and to eradicate poverty. It is our ultimate goal to ensure the fruits of our development efforts will be enjoyed by all Sarawakians and to ensure the long-term economic resilience of the state,” he said.
The strategy, among others, covers the implementation of all basic infrastructure, water and electricity supplies, dilapidated schools and others; continuation of driving digital initiatives in order to leverage on digitalisation for higher productivity and promoting e-commerce business to leapfrog the state economy as well as continue to accelerate the state economic development through further broadening of investments and providing a conducive business environment to entice more investors.
The state economy, according to Wong, is expected to grow at 4.6 per cent this year, supported by the stronger growth in the services sector.
“For 2019, the state economy is projected to grow at five per cent, mainly supported by higher injection in public investment attributed to the implementation of major infrastructure projects like rural transformation initiatives, walkabout projects, roads network, water and electricity supplies.
“In addition, there will be several other infrastructure projects by Recoda (Regional Corridor Development Authority) to be implemented under three development agencies, namely Highland Development Agency (HDA), Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA), and Northern Region Development Agency (NRDA). The ongoing Pan Borneo Highway project will also support growth,” he added.
Sarawak, Wong pointed out, should take advantage of the trade conflict between the United States and China by attracting investors to relocate their operations to Sarawak and use Sarawak as an export hub.
“The trade crisis could present a potential opportunity for Sarawak to advance its international trade, leveraging on our strengths such as in the provision of generous incentives in terms of competitive land price, attractive utility price, favourable payment scheme for the purchase of industrial lands in addition to the incentives by the federal government.
“I would like to encourage our business community to explore collaboration opportunities with international investors to enter into the global market,” he said. — DayakDaily