Sarawak may need foreign investors to upgrade timber industry — Awang Tengah

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 25, 2017.
-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the state may need to work with foreign investors to upgrade its timber industry.

“At the moment, most of the players in the timber industry are based in Sarawak. They are mostly involved in the upstream segment but are now going towards the downstream segment for plywood and other timber products.

“We would like to enhance the timber industry and our timber products. We may have to collaborate with other investors, especially from Japan, South Korea and China, which are the traditional buyers for the timber products,” he said yesterday at a press briefing on the 13th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF), which will be held in Kuching, Sarawak, from Nov 21 to 23.

He added that the state is also looking at expanding Sarawak’s furniture industry, which is still very small, despite the state’s abundant timber resources.

Awang Tengah said the state needs to start off with getting one renowned anchor company for the furniture industry to kick it off.

Besides developing the timber industry, Awang Tengah reiterated that the state is in the midst of a long-term transformation plan, which will also involve the manufacturing and tourism industries, as well as the setting up of a halal hub.

He added that the state government also plans to expand the oil and gas sector, with plans to turn Bintulu into a petrochemical hub.

Meanwhile, WIEF Foundation chairman Tun Musa Hitam said Sarawak was picked mainly for its drive to develop its digital economy, which was in line with the forum’s theme of “Disruptive Change: Impact and Challenges”.

“I’m very impressed with their emphasis on the digital economy because that’s the way to go. That’s the immediate future. We are now talking about artificial intelligence, driverless cars and all sorts of other things, and the focus has to be on the digital economy,” he said.

Awang Tengah added that Sarawak is going “full-gear” in preparing to embrace the digital economy, highlighting the fact that the state government had committed RM1 billion for ICT infrastructure upgrades.

“The mode of implementation [for the RM1 billion allocation] is still to be decided, but what is obvious is the commitment of the government to improve the ICT infrastructure,” he said.

“We are really looking forward to host the 13th WIEF in Sarawak. To me, this is a golden opportunity to promote Sarawak and what we can offer in relation to investment and business opportunities,” he added.