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Friday February 15, 2008

RM110b investments for SCORE


stephenthen@thestar.com.my

CENTRAL Sarawak, which has long been in the shadows of development in this vast state, has found itself in the limelight, now that the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) has successfully taken off with more than RM110bil in investments pledged on the day of its launch.

SCORE, which is the main theme of development in the state’s regional corridor development policy, will see the setting up of at least five big electricity-generating plants using hydro-power, coal and gas as their main feedstock.

Stretching along a 320km expanse from Tanjung Manis in Mukah Division to Similajau in Bintulu Division, the corridor is the biggest in terms of area of coverage and monetary investments compared to the other four development corridors launched in other parts of the country.

Vast development: Abdullah looking at a model of the Bakun Dam hydro electric project after launching SCORE in Bintulu, Sarawak.

Some RM334bil in foreign and local investments are expected to flow into Sarawak until 2030, with RM110bil in projects inked on Monday alone.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who graced the launch, said that eventually, the investments in SCORE would reach the dizzying heights of RM500bil.

These financial figures may seem mind-boggling for people in central Sarawak, most of whom are poor and live in rural and sub-rural settlements.

However, they will be able to reap benefits from spin-offs from the projects once they get off the ground as 1.6 million jobs are expected to be created by the high-impact industries in the corridor and its hinterland.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the state had drawn up a blueprint for SCORE that outlined 10 social and commercial sectors to be opened up by the development corridor to benefit the local population.

“A total hinterland area of 70,000 sq km is expected to be developed, affecting a population of more than 600,000.

Close look: Cadet pilot Amira Nuria Anuar viewing a model aircraft at an exhibition booth.

“By 2030, we expect the creation of 1.6 million jobs in the areas covered by the development corridor.

“The central region will see fast-track progress to enable it to catch up with southern and northern Sarawak,” he said.

According to the development blueprint, the core projects involve the setting up of power generation plants to churn out at least 20,000 MWs of electricity.

Ten high priority sectors have been identified for development as well – petroleum, aluminium, metal production, glass production, tourism, palm oil plantations, timber plantations, livestock, fishing, aquaculture and engineering including shipbuilding, road building and port construction.

Abdullah has allocated an initial sum of RM5bil as federal funds to the corridor.

“By 2030, the corridor will bring in RM334bil in investments. The Government will provide 15%, the state 4%, government linked companies 23% and the private sector 58%.

Colourful event: Youngsters wearing traditional costumes waiting for the arrival of the Prime Minister.

“Sarawak's gross income is expected to reach RM118bil by 2030 because of this corridor, five times the current RM23bil,” he said.

Some 12 memoranda of understanding (MoU) were signed. The signatories were agencies and companies from Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia, Australia, China, Taiwan, West Asia, Japan, Britain, and Asian Bank and a consortium of banks.

Among the projects are energy supply deals worth RM12.5bil, the RM22bil Bakun dam and undersea transmission cable, construction of steel cluster complexes worth RM15bil, development of pulp and paper mills, aquaculture projects, fishery projects, shipyards, zinc electro refinery plants and aluminium smelters.

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