Chief Minister Taib confident Sarawak can continue building on 30 years of growth

Reading Time: 6 minutes

After 30 years of steering Sarawak through choppy waters, the real work has only just begun for Chief Minister Taib, who is firmly at the helm as Malaysia’s largest state enters a new era of economic diversity.

Since taking office in 1981, Sarawak’s Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud has overseen a period of unprecedented growth in many facets of Sarawak life.

Gross Domestic Product has risen to a RM78 billion in 2010 from RM6.5 billion. The majority of the population now have access to clean water, as opposed to only 31 per cent in 1980, and hard-core poverty is less than one per cent.

He has also achieved much on the social front, successfully integrated an array of racial and religious groups in a region of Malaysia that boasts more than 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups.

However, for the Chief Minister, this is only the beginning. If the past 30 years has been a period of hard graft and sowing the seeds of development for Sarawakians, the next 30 promises an era of harvesting the fruits of their labour.

Chief Minister Taib has helped Sarawak finally break free from an economy totally dependent on agriculture, timber and palm oil to one that has embraced heavy industries, technology, biotechnology and financial services, among others.

His SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) programme, which was launched in 2008, has galvanised the state’s private sector.  The economy, shaken out of its agro-based slumber, is poised to reinvent itself with local companies looking to diversify and foreign investors eager to join the party.

It is all part of Chief Minister Taib’s ambition for Sarawak to become a developed region by 2020 in line with federal government targets and a high-income economy by 2030.

“SCORE is Sarawak’s way of trying to diversify our economy further, from agro-based to heavy industries,” said Chief Minister Taib. “We have been quite successful in attracting energy-intensive investments and now we have the potential for 28,000 megawatts of electricity, 20,000 of which will be hydro-powered.

“We have more than half a billion tonnes of coal, which we can develop. It is much cheaper to generate electricity that way, rather than importing coal over a long distance.”

Providing adequate power is crucial to attracting investors for heavy industry projects and the Bakun Dam in Bintulu will be fulfilling much of the energy requirements for the area, especially Samalaju Industrial Park (SIP), which is part of SCORE.

Chief Minister Taib said SIP was only one part of a SCORE trifecta, the other two being the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub in Mukah producing food and pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.

“There are three segments of SCORE. The heavy industry has an advantage in that we are able to provide a reasonably cheaper supply of energy,” he said. “So we are able to gain interest from aluminium smelters, polycrystalline silicon manufacturers and all the downstream industries.

“I’m now hard-pushed to quicken the pace of electricity generation because they request so much. I’ve now got investment of about RM26.4 billion.”

Of this, he said, 20 per cent are locally owned while 37 per cent are fully owned by foreign interests. The rest comprise joint ventures.

“We are not very rigid about who owns what,” said the Chief Minister. “Heavy industry is something that will benefit the country. I believe there will be a lot of positive spin-off effects for local people who have smaller industries.”

In terms of halal products and ecotourism, Sarawak is tailor-made to promote these industries given its large Muslim population and vast natural resources.

During the Invest Malaysia Forum 2011 in January in Abu Dhabi, several Gulf players expressed interest in the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub.

Gulf investors are poised to pour an estimated RM650 million worth of investments into the 77,000-hectare TMHH, with three MoUs signed in January, with the focus on food security on a global scale.

During his tenure, Chief Minister Taib has worked to promote Sarawak’s diverse cultures to the world, as well as to fellow Malaysians. To that end, ecotourism plays a major role in SCORE on a platform he calls “CAN”.

“We are very proud of our history and culture,” he said. “And we are very caring towards nature. So our tourism is based on what is called the “CAN” concept – culture, adventure and nature. I have developed four or five destinations over the years to enable me to expose the country to the customs, culture and heritage of the area through festivals.”

These festivals involve food, games such as water sports and, especially music, with the International Rainforest Music Festival already established as one of the region’s leading musical extravaganzas.

Infrastructure development has been a great boon to the lives of people living in Sarawak. The strategic areas of SCORE will be connected by a new rail link spanning the entire project of more than 350 kilometres.

River ways will be turned into transport routes via river taxis and new roads will be built. Chief Minister Taib said the road network is one of main aspects of development in order to bring rural communities out of remote areas.

“We used to have only 4,000 kilometres of road in Sarawak,” he said. “And most of the roads were not properly surfaced. Isolation was the biggest problem I had. There were more than 5,000 settlements, where 3,000 had less than 50 families, right in the middle of nowhere, connected by rivers. That was the biggest stumbling block I ever met.”

He said during his time in charge, more than 18,000 kilometres of roads were built and there is more to come with new industries and cities sprouting across the state.

People’s lives have also improved with per capita income rising to RM34,000 from RM4,000 when he first took over. The target is for RM50,000 by 2020.

“As a result of the diversification programme, I have created industries here and there and now about 51 per cent of people have moved into urban settings, compared to 30 per cent before,” he said.

However, he said it was not all about encouraging people to move to the city but rather developing the remote areas.

“This has always been the main push because this is our hinterland. This is where we find our resources and our wealth. So, we have to make it as comfortable as possible.

“We don’t want to make the towns too big and one of my master plans was to make sure Sarawak doesn’t become over-crowded in the towns.”

He expects the population of capital Kuching to be about 1.2 million by 2020 while other major towns will have no more than 400,000 people.

Technology is also playing a part in improving the lives of people, with broadband internet connections gradually reaching remote areas. The Chief Minister said broadband penetration in rural regions is now about 13 per cent compared to less than one per cent several years ago while mobile phone usage is at 65 per cent.

“So, communication is increasing. There is now a proper network,” he said. “This is a process of mental transformation and it must take place on the ground.”

Chief Minister Taib gives plenty of credit to the people of Sarawak for their determination to succeed. With more education institutions moving into Sarawak, there is a fresh focus on academic pursuits.

“Attitudes are changing fast,” he said. “People here have a high priority on education and they like to work hard. They are very focused. Not just education but quality education.”

However, his biggest compliment for the people of Sarawak was his praise for their ability to change mind-sets and their willingness to embrace unity.

“To me, it is more about the intangibles,” said Chief Minister Taib. “People are more united, despite the fact they’re different races, colours, languages, religions and cultures.

“The basis of my political development was to have mental transformation, political transformation and cultural transformation. In culture, everybody is moving ahead in the same direction. All cultures are different but they start to meet now and blend.

“Also, our ethics are very important. The people of Sarawak were poor people before. But we keep our determination to work hard and have seen a lot of changes due to that mentality.”

He said Sarawak has spent RM3 billion every year for the past 25 years in order to better the lives of its people.

“Until 10 years ago, that was more than what the federal government spent,” said Chief Minister Taib. “But it’s okay because it transforms the country.”

And the transformation will continue over the next few decades, he vowed. As he looks forward to the future, Chief Minister Taib said Sarawak’s success as it drives towards a new era will depend on the same human principles that initially brought them to global prominence

“It’s based on good understanding of the people, the environment, our resources, our strengths and our weaknesses,” he said.

Chief Minister Taib is one politician who can relate to the people, having been born to humble surroundings in Miri in 1936. Brought by his uncle, Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, he attended St Joseph’s Primary School in Miri and St Joseph’s Secondary School in Kuching before taking up law.

He excelled in his exams, winning a Colombo Plan scholarship that enabled him to further his studies at the University of Adelaide in Australia, graduating in 1960.

Known affectionately as the “White-Haired Uncle” by Sarawakians, the Chief Minister began his political life in 1962 and was appointed state minister for Communication and Works in 1963. He was also Minister of Development and Forestry as well as Federal Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry from 1968 to 1970.

Representing Parti Bumiputera Sarawak, he was elected to the Malaysian Parliament in 1970 and held a number of important federal posts before becoming Sarawak Chief Minister in 1981. He remains the long-serving state leader in Malaysia.

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

Reading Time: 6 minutes

After 30 years of steering Sarawak through choppy waters, the real work has only just begun for Chief Minister Taib, who is firmly at the helm as Malaysia’s largest state enters a new era of economic diversity.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

After 30 years of steering Sarawak through choppy waters, the real work has only just begun for Chief Minister Taib, who is firmly at the helm as Malaysia’s largest state enters a new era of economic diversity.

Since taking office in 1981, Sarawak’s Chief Minister Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib bin Mahmud has overseen a period of unprecedented growth in many facets of Sarawak life.

Gross Domestic Product has risen to a RM78 billion in 2010 from RM6.5 billion. The majority of the population now have access to clean water, as opposed to only 31 per cent in 1980, and hard-core poverty is less than one per cent.

He has also achieved much on the social front, successfully integrated an array of racial and religious groups in a region of Malaysia that boasts more than 30 ethnic and sub-ethnic groups.

However, for the Chief Minister, this is only the beginning. If the past 30 years has been a period of hard graft and sowing the seeds of development for Sarawakians, the next 30 promises an era of harvesting the fruits of their labour.

Chief Minister Taib has helped Sarawak finally break free from an economy totally dependent on agriculture, timber and palm oil to one that has embraced heavy industries, technology, biotechnology and financial services, among others.

His SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy) programme, which was launched in 2008, has galvanised the state’s private sector.  The economy, shaken out of its agro-based slumber, is poised to reinvent itself with local companies looking to diversify and foreign investors eager to join the party.

It is all part of Chief Minister Taib’s ambition for Sarawak to become a developed region by 2020 in line with federal government targets and a high-income economy by 2030.

“SCORE is Sarawak’s way of trying to diversify our economy further, from agro-based to heavy industries,” said Chief Minister Taib. “We have been quite successful in attracting energy-intensive investments and now we have the potential for 28,000 megawatts of electricity, 20,000 of which will be hydro-powered.

“We have more than half a billion tonnes of coal, which we can develop. It is much cheaper to generate electricity that way, rather than importing coal over a long distance.”

Providing adequate power is crucial to attracting investors for heavy industry projects and the Bakun Dam in Bintulu will be fulfilling much of the energy requirements for the area, especially Samalaju Industrial Park (SIP), which is part of SCORE.

Chief Minister Taib said SIP was only one part of a SCORE trifecta, the other two being the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub in Mukah producing food and pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism.

“There are three segments of SCORE. The heavy industry has an advantage in that we are able to provide a reasonably cheaper supply of energy,” he said. “So we are able to gain interest from aluminium smelters, polycrystalline silicon manufacturers and all the downstream industries.

“I’m now hard-pushed to quicken the pace of electricity generation because they request so much. I’ve now got investment of about RM26.4 billion.”

Of this, he said, 20 per cent are locally owned while 37 per cent are fully owned by foreign interests. The rest comprise joint ventures.

“We are not very rigid about who owns what,” said the Chief Minister. “Heavy industry is something that will benefit the country. I believe there will be a lot of positive spin-off effects for local people who have smaller industries.”

In terms of halal products and ecotourism, Sarawak is tailor-made to promote these industries given its large Muslim population and vast natural resources.

During the Invest Malaysia Forum 2011 in January in Abu Dhabi, several Gulf players expressed interest in the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub.

Gulf investors are poised to pour an estimated RM650 million worth of investments into the 77,000-hectare TMHH, with three MoUs signed in January, with the focus on food security on a global scale.

During his tenure, Chief Minister Taib has worked to promote Sarawak’s diverse cultures to the world, as well as to fellow Malaysians. To that end, ecotourism plays a major role in SCORE on a platform he calls “CAN”.

“We are very proud of our history and culture,” he said. “And we are very caring towards nature. So our tourism is based on what is called the “CAN” concept – culture, adventure and nature. I have developed four or five destinations over the years to enable me to expose the country to the customs, culture and heritage of the area through festivals.”

These festivals involve food, games such as water sports and, especially music, with the International Rainforest Music Festival already established as one of the region’s leading musical extravaganzas.

Infrastructure development has been a great boon to the lives of people living in Sarawak. The strategic areas of SCORE will be connected by a new rail link spanning the entire project of more than 350 kilometres.

River ways will be turned into transport routes via river taxis and new roads will be built. Chief Minister Taib said the road network is one of main aspects of development in order to bring rural communities out of remote areas.

“We used to have only 4,000 kilometres of road in Sarawak,” he said. “And most of the roads were not properly surfaced. Isolation was the biggest problem I had. There were more than 5,000 settlements, where 3,000 had less than 50 families, right in the middle of nowhere, connected by rivers. That was the biggest stumbling block I ever met.”

He said during his time in charge, more than 18,000 kilometres of roads were built and there is more to come with new industries and cities sprouting across the state.

People’s lives have also improved with per capita income rising to RM34,000 from RM4,000 when he first took over. The target is for RM50,000 by 2020.

“As a result of the diversification programme, I have created industries here and there and now about 51 per cent of people have moved into urban settings, compared to 30 per cent before,” he said.

However, he said it was not all about encouraging people to move to the city but rather developing the remote areas.

“This has always been the main push because this is our hinterland. This is where we find our resources and our wealth. So, we have to make it as comfortable as possible.

“We don’t want to make the towns too big and one of my master plans was to make sure Sarawak doesn’t become over-crowded in the towns.”

He expects the population of capital Kuching to be about 1.2 million by 2020 while other major towns will have no more than 400,000 people.

Technology is also playing a part in improving the lives of people, with broadband internet connections gradually reaching remote areas. The Chief Minister said broadband penetration in rural regions is now about 13 per cent compared to less than one per cent several years ago while mobile phone usage is at 65 per cent.

“So, communication is increasing. There is now a proper network,” he said. “This is a process of mental transformation and it must take place on the ground.”

Chief Minister Taib gives plenty of credit to the people of Sarawak for their determination to succeed. With more education institutions moving into Sarawak, there is a fresh focus on academic pursuits.

“Attitudes are changing fast,” he said. “People here have a high priority on education and they like to work hard. They are very focused. Not just education but quality education.”

However, his biggest compliment for the people of Sarawak was his praise for their ability to change mind-sets and their willingness to embrace unity.

“To me, it is more about the intangibles,” said Chief Minister Taib. “People are more united, despite the fact they’re different races, colours, languages, religions and cultures.

“The basis of my political development was to have mental transformation, political transformation and cultural transformation. In culture, everybody is moving ahead in the same direction. All cultures are different but they start to meet now and blend.

“Also, our ethics are very important. The people of Sarawak were poor people before. But we keep our determination to work hard and have seen a lot of changes due to that mentality.”

He said Sarawak has spent RM3 billion every year for the past 25 years in order to better the lives of its people.

“Until 10 years ago, that was more than what the federal government spent,” said Chief Minister Taib. “But it’s okay because it transforms the country.”

And the transformation will continue over the next few decades, he vowed. As he looks forward to the future, Chief Minister Taib said Sarawak’s success as it drives towards a new era will depend on the same human principles that initially brought them to global prominence

“It’s based on good understanding of the people, the environment, our resources, our strengths and our weaknesses,” he said.

Chief Minister Taib is one politician who can relate to the people, having been born to humble surroundings in Miri in 1936. Brought by his uncle, Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, he attended St Joseph’s Primary School in Miri and St Joseph’s Secondary School in Kuching before taking up law.

He excelled in his exams, winning a Colombo Plan scholarship that enabled him to further his studies at the University of Adelaide in Australia, graduating in 1960.

Known affectionately as the “White-Haired Uncle” by Sarawakians, the Chief Minister began his political life in 1962 and was appointed state minister for Communication and Works in 1963. He was also Minister of Development and Forestry as well as Federal Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry from 1968 to 1970.

Representing Parti Bumiputera Sarawak, he was elected to the Malaysian Parliament in 1970 and held a number of important federal posts before becoming Sarawak Chief Minister in 1981. He remains the long-serving state leader in Malaysia.

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid