I have big plans for Sarawak development — Chief Ministerl

INNOVATION: Abang Johari tries his hands at opening a during using a special device in this file photo taken after the announcement of a partnership on fruit crop production between government and Top Fruits (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd last November. Looking on (front row, from right) are Uggah, State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani, former deputy chief minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu and Top Fruits (Sarawak) director Dr Tan Sue Yee. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

That is interesting — how do you turn water into fuel?

Hydrogen – water can be developed as a source of energy. Water, you must remember, is H20 (a molecule of one oxygen bonded to two hydrogen atoms). You extract the hydrogen from water. There is a proven process — I have seen it done either by alkaline process or electrolysis.

That hydrogen is very precious and according to scientists, it can be used to substitute nuclear. If that’s the case, we could export hydrogen because we have heavy rainfall. That is the future.

 

Sarawak’s greatest asset is land. Now that the issuance of concessions for timber and oil palm plantations are frozen, is the state going to be more aggressive into agriculture diversification?

Yes. Yes. That’s why I go for digital (farming). I go for Agropark Policy.

Under Agropark, we rent the land to any entrepreneur in agriculture (agropreneur). We do not want them to be given land as the land can change hands, from one to another, for the other purpose.

FOCUS ON AGRO-INDUSTRY: File photo show Abang Johari taking a closer look at a durian seedling during an exhibition on agriculture in Kuching. — Photo by Tan Song Wei

Perhaps the state should place a caveat on the land rented out?

That is right. That is why what we do Agropark – we rent it to the companies. When you rent it, the land does not belong to you. The purpose of the land is agriculture – you start agriculture. If you don’t, we would terminate the agreement.

In the past, what happened was when we gave the land, they didn’t do it. They just used the land as landbank and then, they would sell it.

This also involved NCR (native customary rights) land and Malay NCR land. When you don’t give them the land, they go against the government. When you give them the land, they sell it.

That is why we use agropark – let them work hard and be serious in agriculture.

After five years, why not? We may give it to you.

To produce food, you don’t need big land. Fertigation is there, greenhouse is there – what you need is digital infrastructure because you will be using sensors and artificial intelligence, all are controlled by the sensors. They will only need 50 to 100 acres.

Your big plans for state development — what are your platforms to achieve them?

My platform is the DBOS, the Internet, Petros (Petroleum Sarawak Bhd) and Sarawak rights – this takes time based on what we got from London — some of them, we cannot disclose. The opposition want me to disclose, it can be a trap. We cannot disclose it yet. We are still in the middle of a negotiation. They must understand.  The main objective is to get Sarawak to be developed as a high-income economy by 2030.

It has been reported that some oil and gas industry players are already trying to work with Petros. What is your position on their efforts?

This is still very premature. This is still part of our negotiations with Kuala Lumpur on Sarawak rights. I cannot reveal too much. There are already some inroads that we have gotten from Petronas, but we have to handle (things) properly because the idea of Petros is very much tied up to the information that we got from London. I can’t really reveal because it involved legislation. But definitely, Petros will become a key player.

 

How would you sum up your first year as Chief Minister of Sarawak?

What I did in my first year after taking over from Tok Nan was to continue his policies. He had done his part. His policies are very people-centric, very popular among the people. I do not want to be too popular because my policies will be based on reality.

At the moment, my policies involve basic economy policy. If you give too many (concessions) but when your revenue is not enough, you would be facing problem. Our services expenditure is very high.

Local governments have no revenue — the state government has to give revenues to the local governments.

I must have good coffers in order to give to the ‘rakyat’ (people). I’m thinking on how to get revenues — believe me, I think I can do it. The question is basic management of economy, but at the same time you must also have good business model without depleting our reserves.

We must use our reserves. The policies must be correct and financial management must be correct as well.

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