KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg envisions Sarawak becoming a ‘Little China’ as he plans to model the state after Shenzhen, China which has grown from a small fishing village into the world’s manufacturing capital.
He said the state has the potential to reach that status as long as its rural areas are developed with infrastructure and road connectivity to stimulate the economy.
“When I visited Shenzhen in 1988, it was a fishing village but now they’ve turned it into a thriving industrial zone. The key to this is the infrastructure development which has turned China into a very competitive country.
“If we take that as a model and build our rural areas with roads and infrastructure, I believe that we can be a ‘Little China’ in this region. That is our ambition,” he said at the signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Sarawak Energy Bhd and Bakun Charitable Trust for Bakun Resettlement Scheme Education at a hotel here yesterday.
He pointed out that the Sarawak government under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is currently focusing on developing the state’s rural areas to achieve this goal.
“Once we have the infrastructure and roads in our rural areas, this will stimulate the economy and after that, other sectors will also come in and spur development in our state.”
He urged locals, particularly youths, to be trained in certain disciplines so that they can contribute towards economic development in rural areas.
“The disciplines include economics, real estate, IT and marketing, which we have to promote to students or those who have graduated but want to pursue further studies such as (in) Masters (level).
“With these new skills, we can really develop holistically in the region such as around Bakun, Baleh and Murum,” he explained.
On the MoU, which is Sarawak Energy’s new social investment with an allocation of RM600,000 for educational incentives for the resettled communities of Bakun, Murum and Batang Ai through the Bakun Charitable Trust for 2019, Abang Johari believed that the assistance channelled by the state-owned energy development group can strengthen the ties between the local communities and Sarawak Energy.
Sarawak Energy continues to work with project-affected communities where its hydroelectric power plants are located to ensure the continued growth and development of the people.
Under the MoU, it will provide an additional RM200,000 to the revolving fund to be placed under the care of the trust to help meet the specific educational needs of the Bakun Resettlement Scheme. The energy provider already provides RM200,000 each for the resettled communities of Batang Ai and Murum on an annual basis.
Signing the MoU on behalf of Sarawak Energy were its group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili and executive vice president for corporate services Aisah Eden, while Bakun Charitable Trust was represented by its chairman Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, and Murum assemblyman Kennedy Chukpai Ugon.
The fund will be used to provide educational incentives to encourage academic excellence among primary and secondary students from the area, as well as financial aid for further studies at higher learning institutions.
It will also be used for other educational development programmes as well as to improve learning facilities for the benefit of the Kayan, Kenyah, Kajang and Penan communities in 15 longhouses in the Bakun Resettlement Scheme.
Also present were Utilities Minister Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom, Assistant Minister of Rural Electricity Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi, Assistant Minister of Water Supply Datuk Liwan Lagang, Assistant Minister of Industries and Investment Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Wilson Ugak Kumbong and Sarawak Energy chairman Datuk Amar Abdul Hamed Sepawi.