SARIKEI: Sarawak will spend 60% of its RM12bil budget in 2019 for rural development, with major emphasis on infrastructure.
Speaking at the Jalan Pesisir ground breaking ceremony on Saturday (April 6), Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the government had to spend big, as it wanted to upgrade the living standard of rural folk.
"Sarawak has a total population of 2.8mil people, of which 1.9mil stay in rural areas.
"We will be spending 60% of the state budget of RM12bil, as the late Adenan (former chief minister) had once said that the rural people have limited income. We thus need to raise their income through infrastructure development of roads and bridges," he said.
He said with better communication, the rural populace would be able to be involved in modern economic type of development, instead of relying on their traditional ways of doing things.
"As long as GPS is in power, we can do it as we cannot rely on the federal government – as shown by their cancellation of several of our projects. Last year, I said we would be building this road (Jalan Pesisir) to connect to Tanjung Manis. I have fulfilled what I have promised," he said to the applause of more than 5,000 people present at the ceremony.
He said that when the 17km-long Jalan Pesisir was completed, it would open up land for agriculture, aquaculture and shipbuilding activities.
The entire project, including the construction of the 1.2km-long Batang Rajang Bridge, costs RM321mil.
The project is expected to benefit more than 50,000 people from Sarikei, Bintangor, Igan, Daro, Kuala Rajang, Belawai and Tanjung Manis.
"For now, the people here have to go down to Sibu first before proceeding to Tanjung Manis, a two-and-a-half hour journey. But with this project, you get to Tanjung Manis directly in about 45 minutes," he added.