KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem believes that the development of Sarawak remains “backward” despite having been a part of Malaysia since 1963.
“I want Sarawak to catch up with the rest of Malaysia. After 50 years, we ought to catch up; we cannot be backward after 50 years.”
In an interview with Bloomberg TV Malaysia, ‘Spotlight on Sarawak: Playing Catch-Up’ broadcast on its website Oct 21, the chief minister addressed the need for the state to industrialise, diversify its agricultural sector and increase infrastructural development.
“Looking at the size of Sarawak; the lack of infrastructure, road, water, electricity, hospital, and schools and so on, we are much behind,” he said, acknowledging that although it would take time, increased development in these areas would open up huge areas for development, communication and markets.
On the need for the state to industrialise, the chief minister said that Sarawak was no longer satisfied with only producing raw materials as in the old days. “We want to process these products ourselves so that we can retain the added value.”
About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s economy is reliant on commodities, but contribution from manufacturing, construction, services and other industries is on the increase.
“I have decided no more timber licensing, no more plantations. For the time being, give ourselves a respite and then perhaps eventually we will depend on our industry.”
On the state’s palm oil industry, Adenan is looking to diversify the agricultural sector in Sarawak.
“Food production is very slow and now we insist on palm oil, palm oil, palm oil. It’s good, but why can’t we grow other crops for production, food crops and so on,” he said, foreseeing increased interest in this area coupled with Sarawak’s availability of land for food production.
“We invite foreign interests to invest not only in palm oil but also in food production.”
Sarawak is forecast to grow 4.7% annually over the next five years under the 11th Malaysia Plan.