Sarawak Government Committed to Rural Development

Mar 14, 2011, 22:00 ET from Asia Newswire

KUCHING, Sarawak, Malaysia, March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Government of Sarawak continues its efforts to develop rural and remote areas where the majority of poverty in the State is concentrated. It is implementing initiatives to encourage traditional industries in rural areas such as agriculture and aquaculture, thereby creating jobs as well as improving access to electricity, communications, clean water, education and health services.

The targets of the National Key Results Areas (NKRAs) to improve Rural Basic Infrastructure in Sarawak are shown below:

    1) Roads - currently the length of roads in Sarawak is 20,333
       km. It will increase to 21,250.5 km by 2012 through the implementation
       and completion of Rural Road Programme

    2) Water Supply - 57% or 296,400 households are provided with clean water
       supply in 2009. The coverage will be expanded to 90% by 2012 through
       the implementation and completion of Rural Water Supply Programme

    3) Electricity Supply - 64% or 332,800 households are provided with
       electricity supply in 2009. The coverage will increase to 95% by
       2012 with the implementation and completion of Rural Electricity
       Supply Programme

The number of Government hospitals and clinics had increased from 335 in 1980 to 543 in 2008.

The Government has provided RM5.68 billion (US$1.9 billion) in funding for the improvement of basic infrastructure in remote regions of Sarawak. Most of this money has been allocated for the construction and tarring of roads to link more isolated long houses and villages, as well as utilities provision such as piped water and electrical lighting for such communities.

Government funding has also been provided to local farmers to adopt more advanced agricultural methods to boost the incomes of rural communities via higher crop yields and more targeted production.

Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said: "The rural community must not be cut off from the mainstream development taking place throughout Sarawak or marginalized in any way. We are providing roads, communications, transportation, electricity, clean water and health clinics in the villages. It is our duty to ensure that people in remote communities are equipped with the skills and knowledge to get better jobs, and to train farmers in more effective agricultural techniques to enable them to improve their standard of living and benefit the State's economy as a whole."

The Government also plans to invest funds that will enable Sarawak to become a "rice bowl" for South East Asia. The state currently produces around 170,000 tonnes of rice annually and is aiming to double production over the next few years to become self-sufficient. Eight areas have been identified for increased rice production, including Sri Aman and Mukah where hybrid rice produces higher yields and centralised farming techniques are being employed.

Changes are also being implemented throughout the educational system to create a more competitive workforce and to prepare students from all ranges of the social spectrum for highly skilled jobs. The State has created more opportunities to Sarawakians especially those from the rural and remote areas to obtain tertiary education. The public higher education institutions in Sarawak have increased their student enrolments from about 7,000 in 2000 to approximately 10,000 in 2010.

These initiatives are expected to improve productivity and competitiveness in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, as well as expanding high skill and high tech sectors, such as information and communications technology. Building a skilled labour force is essential to the success of initiatives such as the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), which is developing industry, agriculture and technology across five major growth nodes throughout Sarawak, with the aim of moving the State's economy up the value chain.

SOURCE Asia Newswire