Sarawak’s 10-year economic roadmap is highly ambitious but achievable

DESPITE uncertainties posed by COVID-19, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) believes that the Sarawak state government’s growth ambition of 7%-8% average per year towards developed status under its Post-COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030) is achievable.

Projecting the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 3%-4% for 2021F, the EPU has alluded to China’s ability to notch an average growth rate of 8%-9% during previous years at the provincial level, according to the Sarawak state director Dr Muhammad Abdullah Zaidel.

“Aside from the expansion of its key economic sectors and infrastructure network as well as the extension into downstream, high value-added industries, EPU will also place emphasis on digitalisation and automation in order to drive greater efficiency and productivity gains,” he told RHB Research’s recent fireside chat which featured Sarawak’s policy makers and industry captains.

“The state’s forward-looking initiatives include its bid for a digital banking license with support from its own development bank and multimedia authority.”

Unveiled in July, the holistic PCDS 2030 aspires to double Sarawak’s 2019 GDP contribution of RM136 bil to RM282 bil by 2030.

This is posited on its economy growing at an average of 6%-8% per year until 2030 with seven strategic thrusts anchored on six main economic sectors underpinning its long-term target.

Of this, GDP contribution from private investment is expected to rise from RM21 bil in 2020 to RM61 bil by 2030, representing a 10-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2%.

Additionally, 200,000 high-paying jobs will be created, bringing Sarawak’s total employment size to 1.5 million whereas median household monthly income is expected to rise from RM4,544 in 2019 to RM15,000 by 2030.

In this regard, the private sector’s involvement will remain crucial to transform the state into a competitive economy as new industries and job opportunities are created across the value chain.

Productivity levels are expected to continue rising, supported by the state’s digitalisation initiatives which include the sustained build-out of telecommunication infrastructures, alongside the adoption of new technologies across various sectors.

Aside from the continued development of Sarawak’s traditional economic sectors – such as mining and quarrying – the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) is eyeing to lead the state’s expansion into other value-added manufacturing activities over the next few years.

This includes the setting up of a petrochemical hub which would house the construction of a RM6 bil methanol plant alongside adjacent downstream industries. Additionally, the state aims to leverage on its hydro-electric dams to venture into the clean hydrogen economy for internal consumption as well as export markets.

By 2023-2025, the SEDC aspires to attain a hydrogen production capacity of 10,000 tonnes per annum before scaling up towards 50,000-80,000 tonnes in subsequent years, depending on power availability. – Sept 15, 2021

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