Setting sights on RM62.2 billion in investments for Sarawak
Posted on : 18 Apr 2022  Source of News: The Borneo Post

Setting sights on RM62.2 billion in investments for Sarawak

By Philip Kiew on April 16, 2022, Saturday at 7:00 AM Sarawak

Awang Tengah seen at his office.

DEPUTY Premier Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan already had his hands full when the new Sarawak Cabinet was announced over 100 days ago, following the big victory clinched by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) in the 12th state election last December. Holding the International Trade and Investment ministerial portfolio, the Bukit Sari assemblyman had set his focus on landing a potential investment worth of RM62.2 billion for the state, encouraging entrepreneurship and digital economy, and also exploring opportunities for home investors. Fast-forward to today, his ministry strives to have Sarawak continuing to be tagged as the preferred investment destination, as the global economy begins rebooting not only from the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, but also in the wake of recent geo-political happenings.

Master plan

The Ministry of International Trade, Industry and Investment (Mintred) has commissioned the ‘Sarawak Development of Industrial Terminals Master Plan’ to prepare for the development of value-added downstream petrochemical industries that would boost state economy and creation of jobs. “Upon completion in March 2023, the master plan would enable Sarawak plan and develop the petrochemical downstream industries in a more holistic manner,” said Awang Tengah. In 2021, Sarawak approved RM7.1 billion worth of investments, but not inclusive of two major expansion projects in Samajaya Industrial Park in Kuching totalling RM2.1 billion, where the works are now progressing. “Sarawak has succeeded in becoming a top national investment destination, despite the challenges of Covid-19 having badly affected the world economy over the past two years,” said Awang Tengah, who is also Sarawak Committee chairman of the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) and head of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) Sarawak Socio-economy Committee.

Photo shows expansion works commissioned by high-tech multinational corporations on Samajaya Free Industrial Zone.

Efforts are also underway towards promoting regional economic cooperation, apart from exploring opportunities arising from Indonesia’s preparations to relocate its capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan. On the homefront, Mintred is out to establish ‘InvestSARAWAK’ – a platform meant to facilitate applications of investments through the provision of all the necessary information required by investors regarding industries promoted by Sarawak. “Our focus is on expediting the applications by investors, because for them, time means money,” said Awang Tengah.

According to him, all major investment projects normally take more than a year to complete the necessary procedures, which involve detailed discussions with Mintred and other relevant authorities such as Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB), Department of Environment (DoE) and Natural Resources and Environment Board (NREB) for site surveys, environmental studies and relevant issues before the final submission for approval.

A meeting on the master plan study for the development of industrial terminals in session.

Main post-election goals

Awang Tengah, who is also the state’s Second Minister for Natural Resources and Urban Development, said his main post-election goals would be to continue the development agenda of the GPS-led government, uphold the rights of Sarawakians as enshrined in MA63, and uplift the socio-economic standard of the ‘rakyat’ (people). For now, however, the focus is on assisting the government, under the leadership of Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, to ensure that Sarawak would become a developed state as envisaged in the ‘Post Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) 2030’. “This is to fulfil what we have promised in our manifesto in the last state election,” he said. “For Sarawak to achieve high-income economy status, industrialisation is the way forward, and for this to be successful, Sarawak needs to work hard in attracting both FDIs (foreign direct investments) and DDIs (domestic direct investments).”

Adding on, he said the industrialisation drive would hinge on Sarawak’s success in attracting investments, with private sector-driven manufacturing being among the key sectors earmarked in PCDS 2030. Awang Tengah said the Covid-19 pandemic had previously caused some investors to re-evaluate their proposed projects in Sarawak due to the ensuing strict travel restrictions. Under such situation, they could neither meet the relevant ministers and officials in person, nor were they able to conduct the necessary surveys in Sarawak. Eventually, things are now back on track, with easier physical meetings and discussions with investors from countries such as China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. “Video-conferencing does have its limitations,” said the Deputy Premier. “Physical meetings are still preferred by investors for more effective communication and decision-making.”

Potential investments

So far, Mintred has conducted several physical meetings with serious potential investors from Singapore, South Korea, China and Australia, as far as potential realised investments are concerned. The key points include:

  • The proposed US$7 billion (RM29.47 billion) investment from Singapore in metal (manufacturing) project, where the application has been received;
  • The proposed US$300 million (RM1.263 billion) investment from South Korea for chemical project, with the necessary applications submitted;
  • The proposed US$5.2 billion (RM 21.896 billion) investment from China for integrated oil refinery project, with the team now planning to conduct site investigation, and;
  • The proposed US$1.2 billion (RM 5.056 billion) investment from Australia for green energy project, with the team having conducted detailed discussions with the relevant authorities.

At the same time, numerous video-conferencing sessions have been held with potential investors, who were not able to travel to Sarawak. They cover:

  • The proposed AUS$300 million (RM948.06 billion) investment from Australia in basic metal (manufacturing) project, where the prospective investor has planned to visit Sarawak soon, as international borders gradually open;
  • The proposed US$1.5 billion (RM6.31 billion) investment from Hong Kong in electric vehicle (EV) batteries;
  • The proposed RM300 million investment from the US in biomedical project. Discussion is still at preliminary stage, but the team has indicated strong interest to visit Sarawak soon.

All of these combined could have a massive multiplier impact on Sarawak’s economy should they materialise.

‘No 1 FDI destination in country’

For Orang Ulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Datuk Mutang Tagal, the record speaks for itself regarding the hard work put in by Awang Tengah towards promoting Sarawak as the ideal investment destination for heavy industries. “He has staged an impressive performance in attracting FDIs to Sarawak within his 100 days in office,” said Mutang, hoping that the Deputy Premier would be able to place Sarawak as the No 1 FDI destination in the country in the coming years.

Adding on, Mutang said apart from these serious potential investors bringing in FDIs ranging between RM60 billion and RM100 billion, Sumitomo and Samsung were in advanced discussions with the Sarawak government to produce green hydrogen, said to be around 100,000 tonnes in annual capacity for exports and involving massive investments.


Awang Tengah (back row, centre) seen in a photo-call taken after the presentation of assistance under Sarawak Micro Credit Scheme, SPIKS, GERAK and USTEV to local SMEs and micro-SMEs.

On the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), many policies and initiatives run under Mintred have been continued to help alleviate their financial burden, to sustain their operations, and also to prepare them for the post-Covid-19 period. From throughout 2021 up to the first quarter of 2022, Mintred had assisted over 15,000 entrepreneurs through financial assistance, capacity-building and product promotion programmes. In continuing to enhance the capacity and capabilities of SMEs in Sarawak, the ministry is targeting to help over 11,000 entrepreneurs this year.

It is noteworthy to state that out of the RM216.8 million allocated to Mintred, RM171.38 million has gone towards assisting over 6,000 SMEs. The performance rate stands at 78.3 per cent. The following lists other data:

  • From 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, RM20.58 million had been disbursed to and benefitted 708 SMEs, through soft loans and interest subsidies under Sarawak Micro Credit Scheme.
  • Under the Small and Medium Industry Loan Scheme (SPIKS), Mintred had, from 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, disbursed RM5 million out of the RM6 million in soft loans, benefitting 44 SMEs.
  • From 2021 to the first quarter of 2022, RM4.42 million had been disbursed under the ‘Graduates Towards Entrepreneurship’ (GERAK) and ‘Technical and Vocational Entrepreneurs’ (USTEV) programmes, meant to assist graduates and school-leavers by equipping them with technical and vocational skills so as to facilitate them in starting up a business. The allocation benefitted 602 SMEs.
  • RM1 million has, so far, been disbursed to 100 SMEs, while another 500 SMEs with total assistance of RM5 million have been targeted in 2022 under the RM20-million ‘Go Digital Sarawak’ – a programme that offers assistance in the form of grants worth up to a maximum of RM10,000 to purchase hardware for entrepreneurs wishing to venture into e-commerce and e-payment.

Photo shows Awang Tengah (third right) performing the opening gimmick for the ‘Go Digital Sarawak’ programme at Hotel Seri Malaysia in Lawas.

Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia that provides the interest subsidy schemes for three and half years to the eligible SMEs under the ‘Special Relief Fund’, ‘Targeted Relief and Recovery Facility’ (TRRF) and ‘PENJANA Tourism Fund’ (PTF). All the Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid (BKSS) applications for SRF, TRRF and PTF totalling RM77 million had been approved by Mintred before 31 Jan this year, benefitting 3,346 applicants. With budget allocation of RM80.7 million, the disbursement achievement rate stood at 95.4 per cent.

Continuation of support

Mintred is continuing the development of nine new industrial park projects: Samalaju SME Cluster in Bintulu; works on four industrial parks, which experienced slightly delay due to Covid-19 pandemic and inclement weather; re-starting of the Rantau Panjang project, which was delayed by certain access problem; and Sebuyau, Demak Laut 2C and Marudi extension projects, which are currently at a pre-implementation stage. The ministry is also monitoring the catch-up plan for eight ‘Anjung Usahawan’ (Entrepreneur’s Platform) projects meant to promote entrepreneurship in Sarawak. Their implementation was also delayed by the pandemic, on top of facing shortage of construction materials to the sites in Lawas, Sundar, Gedong, Telok Melano and Sematan. There are three pre-implementation projects under Mintred: those in Kuala Lawas and Limbang are set for tender process, while the one in Trusan is still under site-identification stage. On the other hand, the three industrial park projects costing RM153.1 million in Kuching, Sri Aman and Kapit, have been delivered as scheduled.

News Source from Borneo Post online at https://www.theborneopost.com/2022/04/16/setting-sights-on-rm62-2-billion-in-investments-for-sarawak/