KUCHING: Sarawak’s business community should look at the Asean Economic Community (AEC) for opportunities to expand their market, says Industrial Development Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
He said the AEC, with a combined population of 625 million people, held great potential for trade and commerce.
“The combined economies of the 10 Asean nations make it a major economic powerhouse, the fifth largest after the European Union, China and Japan,” he said at the Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 64th annual dinner here during the weekend.
According to Awang Tengah, Sarawak had to explore export markets abroad in order to grow as its domestic market was small.
He noted that the state had inland port facilities at Tebedu to facilitate cross-border trade with Indonesia as well as links to Brunei via Miri.
“Therefore, Sarawak is well-positioned to offer many of our goods and services to our neighbouring countries.
“I would like to urge all of you to be fully prepared for the AEC and grab hold of the opportunities made available by the community,” he added.
Awang Tengah also said Sarawak was one of the top destinations for foreign investment in the country, attracting RM11.76bil from January to September this year.
This is second only to Johor, which had RM30bil.
“I am proud to say that Sarawak has consistently performed well over the past four years as being among the top four preferred investment destinations in Malaysia,” he said.
He added that the state would continue to support the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through various initiatives, including developing industrial parks throughout Sarawak.
“Under the 11th Malaysia Plan, new industrial estates will be developed in smaller towns such as Lundu, Betong, Sri Aman, Sebuyau, Marudi and Bau to support local SMEs.
“We hope there will be at least one industrial park in every district, especially in rural towns,” Awang Tengah said, adding that this was in line with Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s “go rural” policy”.
At the dinner, Adenan presented the Sarawak Outstanding Entrepreneurship Award to Datuk Barry Yek, Master Entrepreneur awards to Peru Balan Ding and Alex Ting and Outstanding Entrepreneur (Outside Sarawak) award to Datuk Peh Lai Yian.
He also delighted the crowd by singing four songs, including Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love and Cliff Richard’s The Young Ones, raising RM205,400 for charity in the process.