Wednesday January 2, 2013
Critical year for Sarawak
By STEPHEN THEN
MIRI: Senior politicians and economic experts in the state told The Star that 2013 would be a defining watershed year that will become the platform on which the future would be charted for many years to come.
For Sarawak, it would be a pivotal year especially in the financial, economic and social aspects because the construction of several billion-ringgit projects would kickstart in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), creating jobs for thousands and spin-offs that would impact the rest of the state, said Bintulu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Datuk Sia Hiong Ngie.
In politics, 2013 would be a defining year and very critical in nature because the result of the general election would determine the success of the government transformation programmes for the rakyat, said Dewan Rakyat Deputy Speaker Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.
Sia, who is the immediate past president of Sarawak Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, on Monday said huge foreign investments were expected to flow into the Bintulu region that would result in multiplier effects in the social and business sectors in the state.
“We (chamber) have heard that a very big paper and pulp project is going to start in Tatau (some 40km outside Bintulu town) in 2013.
“It is going to be worth more than RM1bil.
“Several other very big projects involving foreign investors in the high-tech manufacturing sectors are also expected.
“The Murum dam is expected to start producing electricity and the Bakun dam is expected to generate to full capacity in 2013.
“There are several mega-industrial projects in the Similajau heavy industrial estate that are almost completed. They are expected to start operation after they are connected to the Bakun and Murum power lines.
“These huge energy-intensive projects will create ripple effects that will impact the economy of the state.
“I feel that as long as the state continues on a policy that is pro-business and can create a conducive environment for investments, we will see a very prosperous 2013 in the industrial arenas,” he said in an interview.
Sia, however, expressed his concern over the rather worrying dip in the prices of three important primary commodities towards the end of 2012.
The prices of oil palm, rubber and timber had fallen to quite a big margin, he said.
“There seems to be a drop in the purchase of these commodities by traditional overseas market, especially China.
“I hope the Government will take steps to shore up these sectors as they are very important for smallholders and for the rural socio-economic developments,” he said.
Wan Junaidi, who is Santubong MP, said 2013 would be a critical year.
“The general election would be held soon and it will determine whether the stability under Barisan Nasional will continue.
“Malaysians will have to decide who they want to govern the country for the next five years and onwards.
“The Barisan Nasional Government will have to fulfil its promises to the nation, especially to Sarawakians, in terms of improving the very basic infrastructure like water, electricity and roads.
“I have said it many times that the rural people must be provided with all these basic amenities regardless of where they are or their ethnic background,” he said.
Wan Junaidi said the new year would see the extension of the government’s “safety nets” for social and business circles with financial assistance given to students and the needy be continued.
He also expects to see the Government further liberalising the country in terms of civil rights, democratic practices and freedom of expressions.
More efforts will be made by the Government to improve the welfare of the needy, especially the poor, handicapped and those living in rural areas, he added.
Wan Junaidi, however, expressed hopes that there would be greater effort made by political parties to refrain from making use of race, religion and education issues for political mileage.