Sarawak remains financially strong, assures CM

Posted on : 31 Aug 2019  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Abang Johari (left) listens as Safiee delivers his points during the townhall session at Sarikei Central Hall.

SARIKEI: Sarawak remains financially strong, as it has many sources of income to cover the development expenses.

In giving this assurance, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg says the 2016 Budget of over RM11 billion – said to be the biggest in Sarawak’s history – indicates the state government’s serious focus on its development agenda.

“Don’t worry – Sarawak is financially strong, as she has many sources of incomes to cover the development expenses, including (revenues generated from the) five per cent tax on our oil and gas.

“We do not have to spend our reserves of over RM30 billion,” he responded to a question about whether or not Sarawak would go bankrupt in the next three years as once claimed by Minister of Finance Lim Guan Eng, during a townhall session held at Sarikei Central Hall yesterday.

Themed ‘Today For Tomorrow (T4T) with Chief Minister’, the three-hour session was arranged and conducted by Sarawak Volunteers in conjunction with state-level National Day 2019 celebration here.

Abang Johari (fifth left) receives a memento from Huang, as (from left) Safiee, Sharifah Hasidah, Abdullah, Rolland, Len Talif, as well as Fatimah (right) and Fadillah (second right) look on.

About 1,500 people took part in the session, which was moderated by Daro assemblyman Safiee Ahmad.

In his opening remarks earlier, Abang Johari regarded the strong bond of unity and harmony among Sarawakians of various races and religions as ‘key to our promising future’.

“We are not only culturally connected but digitally connected, which enables the Sarawak government and the people of Sarawak concentrate on developing the state,” he said.

Other questions from the floor later led the Chief Minister to reveal various development programmes being planned for Sarawak.

As for Sarikei, he spoke about a ‘master plan’ to expand the district to a point that it would ‘merge’ with neighbouring towns like Bintangor and Tanjong Manis.

According to him, this master plan is already in place.

In this respect, he said a site across Sungai Pasi had been identified for the setting-up of a new township that would ‘gradually merge Sarikei with Bintangor and Tanjong Manis’ and in the process, would ‘transform the Central Region into the main food basket of Sarawak’.

Abang Johari (standing front, fifth left) shows thumbs-up during a photo-call. On the same row as him are (from left) Ding, Sharifah Hasidah, Mawan, Huang, Len Talif, Fadillah, and Fatimah. Seen on ground (second row, from second left) are Abdullah and Safiee.

Abang Johari considered the construction of the link road from Sungai Pasi to Tanjong Manis/Sibu Road including a bridge over Rajang River as an initial part of this master plan.

It is estimated that the link rod project would cost over RM400 million.

The Chief Minister also named the ‘agropark’ being set up in Sungai Baji area as a part of the Sarikei expansion master plan.

He said 50 per cent of the works had been implemented, with the remaining 50 per cent underway – the latter would include installation of modern equipment and facilities, including digital gadgets.

“A sum of RM200 million has been approved for the implementation of the state’s first Agropark project which involves an area of 314 acres,” disclosed Abang Johari, adding that one of its objectives would be to expose local farmers to modern farming practices such as automatic plant-watering and fertilisation systems.

“As the state government embarks on digital economy to steer Sarawak’s development to greater heights, more telecommunication infrastructure would be provided throughout the state,” he said, adding that this year, a total of 300 towers had been erected, followed by another 300 next year.

“The process continues until all areas are covered by Internet service.”

Asked whether Sarawak was interested to set up its own airlines, Abang Johari viewed it as ‘a costly venture’.

However, the Sarawak government had given a thought about taking over MASwing, he said, adding that should that materialise, ‘Sarawak would use other types of aircraft’.

Petra Jaya MP Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof; Minister of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah; Assistant Minister of Urban Development and Resources Datu Len Talif Salleh; Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Department (Law, State-Federal Relations and Project Monitoring) Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali; Assistant Minister in Chief Minister’s Department (Corporate Affairs and Sarawak Public Communications Unit) Abdullah Saidol; Repok assemblyman Dato Sri Huang Tiong Sii; Meradong assemblyman Datuk Ding Kuong Hiing; Pakan assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan; and Meluan assemblyman Rolland Duat Jubin were among those attending the session.