KUCHING: Sarawak will have a development-based budget totalling RM8.226bil next year to stimulate economic activities and growth.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said RM5.745bil or 70% of the budget would be allocated for development and RM2.481bil for operating expenditure.
He said the budget would be fairly distributed to ensure sustainable and balanced development, especially between urban and rural areas.
“Fifty-three per cent of the development budget will be allocated for rural areas, amounting to RM3.062bil.
“Rural development is vital towards achieving our objectives in opening up greater opportunities in rural and remote areas for the economic prosperity of the people there,” he said when tabling the budget in the state assembly yesterday.
Abang Johari said next year’s budget is estimated to register a deficit of RM256mil based on expected total revenue of RM5.525bil against total expenditure of about RM5.781bil.
He said state revenue had been dropping since 2015 due to falling oil and gas prices and lower forestry and dividend income, while expenditure was on an upward trend.
“Against this backdrop, the government will intensify research and development activities with a view to sourcing new revenue such as cess and levy on valuable commodities, as well as royalties from patents,” he said.
This is the second year in a row that the state has tabled a deficit budget.
However, Abang Johari said the state’s revenue this year would be revised upwards to RM6.1bil, RM779mil higher than the original estimate, due to higher dividend income, sales tax and hill timber premium.
As such, he said the revised 2017 budget is expected to register a RM394mil surplus, instead of the original estimated deficit of RM385mil.
For next year, Abang Johari said the budget would continue to focus on infrastructure development such as roads, telecommunications, electricity and water supply.
He also said a new digital economy sector would be created, comprising initiatives such as digital infrastructure, digital government, digital talent development, smart cities and digital entrepreneurship.
“Digital economy is now included as a new economic strategy in the state budget. This is a forward-looking strategy and the technologies that underpin it will be fundamental for our success and prosperity,” he said.
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