SIBU (Bernama): Once known for its timber industry which flourished during the 1940s and 1950s, Sibu, which relies mostly on commercial activities, now needs to put itself on the right track so as not to be left behind in Sarawak’s bid become a high-income and developed state by 2030.
With a total area of 8,278.3 square kilometres, Sibu Division comprises three districts namely Sibu, Selangau and Kanowit.
A lot of infrastructure projects in these areas had been implemented by the state government and there would be many more to come under the 12th Malaysia Plan to continue expanding development in Sibu, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg (pic).
In the Sibu district, the projects to be implemented include the upgrading of the Kong Yit Khim Road as a dual carriageway linking Durin Bridge and Lanang Bridge as well as a new 9km road linking Kemuyang to the Teku Pasai-Siong Road.
Those projects including the RM100mil road project linking Sibu Jaya to Kong Yit Khim Road which was currently under construction would connect Sibu with the hinterlands to make it a more vibrant town in the future.
Sibu plans to achieve its vision to become the centre of development in the Central Region of Sarawak by 2030 and the mission to lead the Central Region towards sustainable economic, social, cultural and educational development through a smart partnership between the government, the private sector and the community.
Apart from the infrastructure development, focus on economic activities was also being given to enable Sibu to achieve its vision, with one being the development of the shipbuilding industry which had generated RM279mil worth of exports for Sarawak in 2018, RM349mil in 2019 and RM168mil up to October 2020.
"(This is) a testament to the high quality and technical capabilities of our local shipbuilders," said Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, who was also the State Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development.
There were 40 shipyards operating at the zone, producing tug boats for towing logs, barges for carrying logs, anchor handlers, Offshore Support Vessels (OSV), ferries and express boats, often exported to the neighbouring state of Sabah, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates.
According to Awang Tengah, his ministry had completed the RM11.7mil Rantau Panjang Phase I upgrading works and was now undertaking the development of an additional 8.4984ha for the Rantau Panjang Phase II project which is expected to be completed by end of 2022.
That alone, however, that alone would not be sufficient to compete with the neighbouring Bintulu Division which was growing very fast through the oil and gas industry and may supersede Sibu as the third biggest town in the state in a few years to come.
Another ongoing project was the construction of the Sibu Industrial Park which covers an area of 60.70ha in Sungai Bidut, which was designed for the general industries to cater for the demand of the local SMEs (small-medium enterprises) the industrial park was expected to be completed by end of 2023.
Already been proposed is the setting up of a modern large scale commercial pig farming area (PFA) has been proposed at Sungai Selabi in Selangau district.
Former chairman of Rotary Club of Sibu Dr Gregory Hii Sui Cheng said Sibu which had vast hinterland, also had great potential for modernised agriculture for the production of food that could be exported.
In Kanowit, the former Rajang Area Security Command (RASCOM) settlement here used for relocating villagers at the height of the communist insurgency in the 1970s would be redeveloped as Ngemah Development Area (NDA).
The settlement covering the Nanga Tada, Nanga Ngungun, Nanga Jagau, Kabah and Ngemah areas would be equipped with comprehensive infrastructure to enhance the socio-economic status of the people.
Commercial agriculture to improve the economy of the people in the area apart from the infrastructure development such as roads, electricity and water supply to honour the sacrifices of the villagers who had to be relocated as part of efforts to combat the communists in the 1970s would be carried out under the 12th Malaysian Plan.
Sibu Urban Renewal Committee chairman Datuk Chieng Buong Toon expressed hope that the government could look into creating Sarawak’s first metropolis by incorporating the divisions in the state’s central region into the Sibu Development Master Plan.
This was viable as that the combined population of all divisions in the central region reaches one million people.
The divisions in the central region namely Sibu, Mukah, Sarikei and Kapit are dependent on one another, and Sibu was right in the middle and they all could ‘come together’ and form Sarawak’s first metropolis which would have the ability to become a food bank and a key industry area which was securing food security not only for Sarawak but also the whole nation. - Bernama