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By Geryl Ogilvy
KUCHING, June 19: Building affordable housing for the B40 (bottom 40 per cent income group) remains a key thrust in the state’s housing policy amid the continuing rise in urbanisation.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the state government will continue to look at ways to enable low-income individuals break into home ownership.
“In our early independence, between 1963 and 1970, about 70 per cent of the Ibans and other Dayak natives were living in the rural areas compared to 30 per cent in the urban setup.
“Today, the ratio has reversed, whereby 65 per cent of the natives are staying in urban areas and 35 per cent in the rural (areas) due to the vibrant economic activities and more opportunities to earn a living.
“The ever increasing rural-urban migration would lead to growing population and demand for housing. We must take note on this and provide sufficient affordable houses,” he said at the Gawai Ngiling Bidai celebration here on Tuesday evening, involving Iban community leaders, as well as village and longhouse chiefs in the Kuching division.
Citing the state capital, which has a some 80,000 Iban population, Abang Johari believed the number will continue to increase within the next 10 years amid increased employment opportunities brought about by the state economic transformation.
He added that access to education in the rural areas will see more educated individuals finding employment that match or reflect their training, which is mostly available in big cities, joining other professionals and taking part in the state economic development.
The chief minister said the state has reduced land premium and introduced programmes, where landowners can develop their own houses with the aid of the government including infrastructure development such as roads and drainages.
The state government has set up Mutiara Mortgage and Finance to provide housing loans to the low income group, he added.
“In Kuching, the state has identified areas in Stapok, Sungai Maong and Segedup, as well as areas near Batu Kawah, to develop new affordable housing areas. Squatters will be given priority to own a home at these schemes,” he explained.
On a different note, Abang Johari said the state will also look into cemetery issues in big cities such as Kuching and Sibu to ensure that available land and plots will be sufficient to cater for future needs.
The chief minister also took swipe at those who are sceptical with the state’s digital economic push to the rural areas.
“Today, our people are smart, educated and have trained knowledge on digital technology. Therefore, our economy must match with the minds of our younger generations, especially the native rural community.
“Digital economy is the ‘in’ thing for the future. With many people living in the urban areas, the outlook has also changed with urbanisation,” he pointed out.
Abang Johari said the state will continue to find ways to build infrastructure and link the rural areas with road connectivity to open up economic activities.
“When we have road connectivity across all remote areas in Sarawak, nobody will be confused or pass the road condition in Papua New Guinea as Kapit,” he said, in reference to pictures that went viral on Facebook recently, purporting to show people travelling home on poor condition roads to Kapit for the Gawai celebration. It was later clarified that the photos were taken in Papua New Guinea.
Also present were deputy chief ministers Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Tan Sri Dr James Masing, as well as Iban Temenggong for Kuching, Dato Bernard Aggan Assan. — DayakDaily