Sarawak eyes digital banking

“Accordingly, the Sarawak government is in the midst of putting up the necessary infrastructure and facilities throughout Sarawak, in part to support our digital banking and other digital initiatives, ”

KUCHING: The Sarawak government is seeking a digital banking licence and has submitted “its expression of interest” to Bank Negara, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said.

“We are fully aware that an effective digital banking must be resilient, fair and dynamic. It is among the prerequisites for the Sarawak government to collaborate with reputable technology companies and local retail banks approved by the governing bodies.

“Accordingly, the Sarawak government is in the midst of putting up the necessary infrastructure and facilities throughout Sarawak, in part to support our digital banking and other digital initiatives, ” he added. He was winding up the 2021 State Budget in the state assembly on Friday.

He said a digital banking licence would help to serve the underserved. In April 2017, Bank Negara approved the establishment of the Development Bank Of Sarawak.

Abang Johari said the landscape of doing business is changing as sales are increasingly taking place online and over digital platforms rather than in physical shops.

“In this (Covid-19) pandemic crisis, hyper-connected and capital-light world, I see the future belongs to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) utilising digital platforms. The financial impacts from these economic developments are going to be huge.”

He said RM10mil has been allocated for 2021 to implement SME Digitalisation packages to assist about 1,000 entrepreneurs to become more competitive while operating in today’s “new normal” and challenging business environment.

Abang Johari said the state government is committed to spearhead the digital economy initiatives in order to optimise the potential of digital technology and digitalisation to enable Sarawak to leapfrog towards a high-income economy by 2030.

He said RM540mil had been allocated for 2021 to continue funding the various digital initiatives.

“In accelerating the digitalisation of the economy, the provision of good infrastructure is critical to boost the growth of businesses, to create greater economic opportunities and to open up the local economy as well as to strengthen digital connection with the world.

“The initiatives, among others, are to enhance digital connectivity in rural areas by providing free Internet connection via SarawakNet infrastructure-VAST Technology with a capacity of between 20mbps and 30mbps bandwidth per site, with an allocation of RM16.5mil, ” he said.

He said Sarawak has to-date constructed 300 telecommunication towers statewide, particularly in the remote areas. The construction of another 300 towers will start next year.

On the Development Bank Of Sarawak, Johari said it has proven to be a sustainable platform to facilitate and expedite the realisation of the state’s development agenda.

“Without this innovative model, Sarawak will not be able to develop the physical infrastructure and amenities at the scale we are doing now, ” he said.

According to Abang Johari, some RM5.69bil in 2021 will be made available under the Sarawak alternative funding initiatives to finance specific projects like the Sarawak Coastal Road network (allocation of RM1.15bil) and Sarawak Second Trunk Road (RM494mil).

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