Interview: Adenan Satem
Which policy initiatives should Sarawak prioritise in order to achieve more inclusive growth? How can faster development be promoted in rural areas?
ADENAN SATEM: Sarawak’s development has always been inclusive as we do not have any racial divide. However, there is room for more sharing among the business community by encouraging the development of new businesses and new players in all fields of the economy. There is also room for greater competition, so that the economy can develop faster and more efficiently. The traditional way of building basic infrastructure for the rural areas is still there. However, accelerating the development of the rural economy means that we have to look at the economic activities that can be developed and how that economy can be linked to the rest of the world. Logistics will play a critical role as well as the promotion of efficiency and productivity of the rural economy. There is a need to transition from traditional rural living to a modern economy in the rural areas.
What is your vision for the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE)? Which industries are you aiming to attract through the growth area?
ADENAN: SCORE is Sarawak’s decisive move to industrialise at the global level. The major driver of our industrialisation is the development of the energy sector, coal and hydropower in particular. The industries we want to attract are those that will be the cutting-edge firms in the next 20-30 years as that will be the contract period for our power-purchase agreements. We are looking for large and steady companies to anchor SCORE, so that we can develop the downstream industries where more of our local businesses can participate.
What are the best investment opportunities in agribusiness in your view? What needs to be done to strike a balance between economic development and environmental protection?
ADENAN: The best opportunity for investment is in aquaculture as the global demand for seafood is tremendous. Sea products can also be used as inputs in the development of beauty and health products. This is our major focus in the Tanjung Manis Halal Hub.
As we have a large land mass, we are also venturing into agricultural export-based food industries. We do not have a big population to supply for domestic demand, but global demand for food is increasing with the increase in income levels. We have probably maximised our natural resources for our economic development. The fact is that there is a finite supply of natural resources. It is natural that we will have to find other means to accelerate the growth of the economy and the obvious direction is value-added and the greater use of human capital. Once talent has been encouraged as the principal driver for growth, we can venture into the services industries and greater value-added manufacturing industries. Even agriculture can be made more capital- and knowledge-intensive.
How can Sarawak attract long-term funding to develop strategic infrastructure projects?
ADENAN: We have to clearly identify our future direction for the economy away from natural resources and towards manufacturing and services.
Additionally, we have to identify commercially feasible major projects which we can develop. We are doing this for the development of our energy sector, especially for coal and hydropower for SCORE. We can do this for the other sectors as well. Once the business model is clear, investors will be interested.
In 2015 Malaysia will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN. What regional trade and investment opportunities do you foresee for Sarawak as a result?
ADENAN: The regional opportunities will arise from our relationship with Indonesia, our nearest neighbour. The country is rich in natural resources, and Sarawak can play a major role in helping it to boost export, especially from Kalimantan. As the country opens up, Sarawak and Kalimantan can thus benefit from bilateral trade.
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