Wednesday, April 8

Hastening rural development through better infrastructure

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A Penan longhouse in Long Liwok, Telang Usan has 24-hour electricity under the Sarawak Rural Electrification Scheme.

Part 4 of a 6 part special series to celebrate the second anniversary of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

THE provision of better rural infrastructure is now being given greater emphasis under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

This was evident in Sarawak’s Budget 2019, where RM6.049 billion or 67 per cent of the RM9.073 billion allocation for development expenditure will go to the development of rural areas.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, when presenting the budget during the State Legislative Assembly sitting on Nov 5 last year, kept to his word of coming up with a rural development-biased budget.

The RM9.073 billion allocated for development expenditure is also the biggest in the history of Sarawak, since the previous budgets for 2017 and 2018 allocated RM2.982 billion and RM3.062 billion respectively.

Abang Johari also told the august House that contrary to what some perceived, none of the funds from Sarawak’s reserves was touched for this budget.

From the RM6.049 billion for rural development, RM1.535 billion will go to Projek Rakyat, RM500 million for Rural Transformation
Projects (RTP), RM243 million for Minor Rural Projects, and RM72 million for ‘Program Penambahbaikan Rumah Miskin Sarawak’
(PPRMS), which will repair houses for the poor.

Abang Johari also said a sum of RM1.105 billion will be allocated for the implementation of various projects because Sarawak is investing in more infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and jetties to further improve connectivity.

Among the 19 infrastructure projects are Jalan Sungai Bidut/Kampung Tutus/Kampung Sebedil/Kampung Bungan Kecil; road from Sibu Jaya to Jalan Kong Yit Khim; construction of Pasai Siong Hilir Road; Jalan Ulu Tubai heading to Mentawai/Gunung Buda; and the construction of Marudi-Mulu road via Long Terawan.

In addition, Sarawak will also build five more bridges. This include building the Rambungan Bridge and Batang Igan Bridge, which were supposed to be 100 per cent federal government funded, and the Batang Lupar Bridge, which was supposed to be implemented on a 50-50 basis with the Federal government.

Abang Johari symbolically hands over a water tank to villagers in Kampung Tanjung Kelaso, Sadong Jaya. During the event he announced RM150 million to address water supply issues for Asajaya, Sadong Jaya, Simunjan, Sebangan, and Sebuyau.

The other bridge to be built is the Bintulu-Jepak Bridge crossing Kuala Kemena in Bintulu.

Abang Johari also revealed that the Sarawak government will continue to extend coverage of water supply, especially to the rural population by allocating a sum of RM190 million for the implementation of various water supply projects.

Among the projects are: the water supply from Kota Samarahan to Sebuyau, Samarahan, pipeline from Assyakirin Reservoir to Nyabau Water Treatment Plant Intake, Bau-Lundu-Sematan regional water supply and pipe renewal programme, and Dalat Water Supply – Phase II.

Abang Johari also said Sarawak is committed to spend about RM11 billion in the next two years for the implementation of various projects, including water and electricity supply as well as road networks.

He explained that the government is leveraging on a new financial model via the Development Bank of Sarawak (DBOS) as well as opportunities in the capital market to source for competitive alternative funding.

He said that to date, a total of 282 projek rakyat announced during his visits to various places in Sarawak costing RM6.3 billion have been approved for implementation.

Most of these projects are roads and bridges, water and electricity supply, housing and social amenities. These projects aim at providing better public facilities and amenities, particularly to the rural community.

On RTPs, Abang Johari said projects funded through RTP funds are vital to ensure the people living in rural areas can enjoy better infrastructure and facilities.

He pointed out that each member of parliament and assemblyperson under GPS would also get an annual allocation of RM5 million in order to ensure the success of the RTP projects in their respective constituencies.

“Developing the rural areas is of the essence for the state government. As such, all elected representatives should strive to ensure smooth implementation of the RTP projects,” he said recently.

He also advised small and medium contractors to equip themselves with the capability to undertake rural development projects in their respective areas.

He pointed out that the contractors must possess the capability to carry out the projects on their own, be familiar with procedures, and are able to deliver on time.

Emphasising the importance of integrity, Abang Johari warned contractors against outsourcing their projects to others under what is known as ‘Ali Baba’ or rent-seeking.

In the coming years, Sarawakians will also enjoy better connectivity once the coastal road, second trunk road, and the Sebuyau-Lingga-Sri Aman-Betong expressway is completed.

This will open up more rural areas, as well as provide for better movement of people and goods, and generate the local economy. It is well known that road infrastructure always plays a key role in the progress and economic growth of a nation.

Physical work for the coastal road, second trunk road, and the Sebuyau-Lingga-Sri Aman-Betong expressway is expected to start in the first quarter of this year.

The main components of the coastal roads are Batang Saribas bridge, Batang Rajang bridge, including a 17km-access road, Sungai Krian bridge, Batang Paloh bridge, Muara Lassa bridge, and Bintulu Jepak bridge, which are all funded by the Sarawak government.

The coastal road project also includes pavement rehabilitation and upgrading of critical stretches for the whole existing coastal road. The total cost of all the projects is RM3.49 billion.

This project is in line with the aim of the Sarawak government to implement the much-awaited 50-year dream of realising the coastal road, the second trunk road, and the Sebuyau-Lingga-Sri Aman-Betong expressway.

The second trunk road and Sebuyau-Lingga-Sri Aman-Betong expressway will serve to provide alternative shorter routes to the main trunk road, Pan Borneo Highway, and the coastal road network.

The first section of the second trunk road is from Kota Samarahan to Roban, covering a distance of about 112km of single carriageway JKR R5 two-lane highway.

The last section of about 30km includes the upgrading of the existing Jalan Kelupu-Jalan Tanjung Gunting to Lanang bridge in Sibu from two lanes to a four-lane JKR R5 highway.

The Sebuyau-Lingga-Sri Aman-Betong expressway covers a distance of about 95km of single carriageway JKR R5 two-lane highway.