State govt keen to help federal agencies in state improve services to cope with digital economy

Subromaniam (centre) presents a memento of appreciation to Abang Johari while Sarawak Customs director Datin Sharifah Halimah Tuanku Taha (left) looks on.

KUCHING, Feb 5: To keep up with the Sarawak’s digital economy aspiration, the state government is more than willing to chip in to help federal government agencies in the state to improve and upgrade their infrastructure.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said for Sarawak to become a developed state, the government administration including its federal departments here needs to improve their services in line with the state’s digital development endeavour.

Speaking during the opening of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department’s annual Directors Conference at Hilton Hotel here earlier today, he told Customs enforcement officers and delegates present that government departments need to catch up with the latest technologies not only to better serve the people, but also to better equip themselves with effective high tech solutions for complex issues, particularly in law enforcement.

“As many businesses are evolving technologically, so too must the enforcement agencies to ensure no high tech problems occur.

“For the Customs Department, I believe your responsibilities are also facing growing challenges due to the evolving economic landscape. Not just globalisation but also having to deal with businesses that are going high tech and smart in their approach in terms of managing, and this would lead to a more complex way of achieving profit while avoiding taxes,” he said.

Abang Johari speaks during the launching of the Malaysian Royal Customs Department’s annual Directors Conference at Hilton Hotel, Kuching.

Abang Johari said government departments and agencies especially those with enforcement would need to have advanced approaches as well to deal with these challenges.

Apart from improving the state’s high speed Internet connectivity and coverage, other efforts the state government would be initiating in the wake of its digital economy aspiration would be to improve and upgrade government infrastructure and assets.

He said the state government has been jointly working with the federal government to upgrade and improve the Customs Department’s two Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) complexes in Sungai Tujuh (Sarawak-Brunei border) and Tebedu (Sarawak-Kalimantan border).

“Recently I announced an allocation of RM2 million to upgrade the CIQ in Sungai Tujuh near the Brunei border because the federal government did not have enough money for that. I dare to say that.

“Also the CIQ in Tebedu — a very important gateway between Indonesia and Sarawak — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi came and announced an allocation of RM10 million only to upgrade the CIQ. I dare to say this, the Indonesian side — the Entikong CIQ — was upgraded with the cost of about RM150 million.

“I told Zahid the RM10 million is not even enough for the bus bays. Therefore I proposed for a joint committee between the state and the federal governments to manage and forsee the upgrading works of our Tebedu CIQ, and the expenses would be split 50-50 between the state and the federal (governments).

“This is our commitment, to ensure our Customs enforcement officers have conducive places to work and provide good services to the people. We cannot just stand and wait, otherwise the criminals will be far ahead of us. We must take this advantage,” said Abang Johari.

Abang Johari (right) greets delegates at the Malaysian Royal Customs Department’s annual Directors Conference at Hilton Hotel, Kuching with Subromaniam (second from right).

Meanwhile, Customs Department director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy expressed his appreciation to the state government for its relentless support for the department.

He said the Customs Department will continue to support the state government in its efforts to increase its revenue as well as improve trade productivity in line with the state’s digital economy aspiration.

“Our department in Sarawak last year managed to thwart illegal distribution and smuggling of contraband like illegal cigarettes, hard liquor and firecrackers with a total worth of about RM20 million with tax evasion worth more than RM53 million.

“The state’s Customs Department also in 2017 managed to solve 613 cases violating the Customs Act 1967 compared to 549 in 2016,” said Subromaniam.

He also revealed that in 2017, the Customs Department collected about RM58.82 billion in taxes where RM44.03 billion or about 76 per cent are from the Goods and Services Tax (GST). — DayakDaily