Thursday, October 22

Roadmap to greater progress for Sibu


Wong (left) and Ting show the RS1 aimed at charting the roadmap for a greater Sibu.

Datuk Andrew Wong Kee Yew

THE United People’s Party (UPP) Community Service Board formulated the Rancangan Sibu 1 (RS1) to ensure sustainable development and creation of opportunities for the young people in Sibu.

The first of the five-year development plan (2018 to 2022) for the town was initiated by its board chairman Datuk Andrew Wong Kee Yew. The roadmap will, among others, focus on three critical new industries — tourism, agriculture and e-commerce — to provide young people with more opportunities to reverse the brain drain hitting the riverine town.

In an exclusive interview with thesundaypost, Wong revealed the contents of the comprehensive plan, including its focus and strategies. Deputy chairman of Social Community Development for UPP Community Service Board, Andrew Ting Kee Nguan, was also present.


Why the need for RS1?

I think what’s most important here is we are trying to ensure sustainable development for Sibu as well as giving more opportunities to the young people. I think if you ask Sibu folk what is the biggest problem in Sibu – of course, some would say there is serious brain drain.Secondly, they would say there is a lack of proper development strategy. So that’s why this particular RS1 is concentrating on the development of Sibu and also giving more business opportunities to the young people.

The RS1 is very comprehensive, covering infrastructure development — from roads, education, e-commerce, youth development, affordable housing, tourism to public transport, agriculture, public health, environment conservation as well as social and community.

(From front left) Wong, JCI Sibu president Daphne Chiew, Minister of International Trade and
E-Commerce Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, JCI national president Nurul Huda Mohd Affandi and (at right) Sibu Resident Hii Chang Kee join the JCI Sibu 60th anniversary cake cutting ceremony.

Why are the three new industries are considered as crucial for Sibu?

You see, the days of traditional industries like timber and palm oil are over. So there have to be newer industries like tourism, agriculture and e-commerce that will encourage the young people to stay in Sibu. Brain drain problem happens when you don’t have job opportunities for the young people. You create job opportunities by creating more entrepreneurs. Brain drain is something we are trying to reverse by working on the following areas:

(1) Tourism: Under RS1, a total of RM3 million is to be allocated for the development and implementation of a Sibu Tourism Action Plan, focusing on the development of adventure and ecotourism products while RM1 million per year for tourism-related activities and event by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) associations and educational institutions.

We managed to get the RM1.5 mil from corporate sponsors to do the new Pasar Malam. Unfortunately, it was rejected but it’s still in this proposal. We are still hoping to push it along for the benefit of Sibu people. There is also a proposal for the establishment and construction of Wong Nai Siong Memorial Museum and RM1.5 million for upgrading Hoover Memorial Park. The thing is that the government cannot do everything for tourism. So, we need to get all the NGOs to work together with us.

Once the action plan is up and running, young people will have the opportunities to get involved either in logistics or building up travel agencies or homestays, adventure and ecotourism-related activities like going into our rainforests. Something I’m working on at the moment is trying to do the crocodile safari along the Rajang River.

(2) Agriculture: We will be requesting 10,000 acres of land from the government for agriculture to encourage more agriculture entrepreneurs and set up an agricultural entrepreneurship and development centre to educate and train young people on agricultural products with higher yield margins. The products we are concentrating on are not the traditional products but newer ones like coconuts, passion fruits, mushrooms and organic farming – higher yield products. The target is to produce 300 to 500 entrepreneurs for the agricultural industry in Sibu and raise RM5 million as a source of funding for agricultural start-ups. That’s our main aim for agriculture – it is going to huge and provides opportunities to over 300 small and medium-sized businesses in related services such as design, marketing, training and logistics.

(3) E-commerce: Both tourism and agriculture are going to rely on e-commerce to sell products. RS1 has proposed the establishment of Sibu E-Commerce Centre (Secom). So, the main thing is e-commerce like agriculture – you don’t need any background in computers. You walk into the centre, we have everything prepared for you to turn your single idea into a company.

A total of RM5 million will be allocated under RS1 as a source of funding and investment for e-commerce start-ups. There is also a proposal for the establishment of a Google-like office work space between 15,000 and 20,000 sq ft and the provision of IT infrastructure with necessary training and education on critical areas such as business incorporation and management, financial planning and analysis, production and manufacturing, design, branding and marketing, logistics and transportation and digital database library.

The target under e-commerce is to produce 300 to 500 entrepreneurs for the e-commerce industry in Sibu and provide businesses in related services such as business management, financial planning and analysis, production and manufacturing, design, marketing, training and logistics. These are the three areas where I see the most job and business opportunities for the people of Sibu.

(4) Affordable Housing: I think affordable housing is something every young person wants before they are 30 years old. Under RS1, 100 acres of land will be allocated for the development of affordable housing. We want to create apartment-style gated communities for the young people. We are trying to target young people with families by offering three-bedroom units, approximately 1,200 sq feet in size.

(5) RS1 with regard to development of Nangka: In regards to the development of Nangka area, RS1 will be looking to Assistant Minister of Education and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee for direction and guidance as we believe Dr Annuar has an overall plan for the development of the Nangka area and the Malay community.

Thus, RS1 will be looking towards complementing the YB’s efforts in developing the Nangka constituency in the future.

Wong (sixth right) and the Rancangan Sibu 1 team are seen during the handing over of a donation recently. Handing over the donation at seventh right is Ting.

Why did the UPP Community Service Board come up with RS1?

I think what the public has to understand is that we are not hoping to be the candidates (for the coming parliamentary election) nor is RS1 our political platform.

We are doing this because we want the people of Sibu to demand for this sort of thing from the future candidates. It might not be us, it might not be Andrew (Ting), it might not be myself but whoever it is — either from SUPP or DAP – I mean the final winner at the end of day will the people of Sibu who must demand to see what plan the candidate or elected people’s representative has for Sibu. It must be a very complete plan.

If RS1 is accepted by the people of Sibu and the candidates are from UPP – from BN in a way – and if people of Sibu show their support and if the candidates from BN manage to win, then, of course, we can bring it to higher level. There is a different between doing it at the service board level and the elected people’s representative’s level. So that’s what we hope the people of Sibu will support. Don’t support political party; support RS1 by itself on its own merit.

Wong was the sole recipient of the prestigious Junior Chamber International (JCI) TOYM Award
from Sibu last year.

How is the UPP team different from those of the BN component parties?

The difference is we have the service board as implementers whereas they don’t. They have people on the ground. But our service board is 100 per cent dedicated to the implementation of RS1.

We have 40 people in the service board who are dedicated to implementing this. So RS1 is going to happen and we hope Sibu people will be able to get behind it.

But if you don’t like our RS1, you can demand for development plans from whoever you are supporting. Force them to come up with a development plan – maybe can be better than us. What we are trying to tell people of Sibu is that there has to be a development plan for the town. You need not accept RS1 but you need to make sure whoever you are supporting to be next candidate for Sibu, you should demand from the candidate a five-year development plan for Sibu.

So my hope is Sibu people will demand for a five-year development plan from whoever they are supporting – be it DAP, SUPP, UPP. They should be demanding for this.

That’s why we did RS1 without consideration of political parties. In fact, nothing about the political party is printed on the RS1 booklet. It’s all about Sibu.

Wong (third left) visits the site of gutted houses in Kampung Bahagia Jaya, Teku, on March 16. On his right is Special Affairs Department (Jasa) officer for Sibu-Mukah Division Awang Julaihi Awang Ali Bohan.