KUCHING: The Sarawak government will continue to improve public infrastructure in rural areas to bridge the gap with urban areas, says Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.
The Premier said this was the focus of Sarawak's holistic development programme, with 70% of the state budget allocated to rural areas.
"This year we have heard reports that rural areas are experiencing traffic jams as people go back to their longhouses to celebrate Gawai.
"This reflects the extent of our rural development, including our road network," he told reporters when attending the state-level Gawai open house at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching on Thursday (June 1).
Abang Johari also said many longhouses now enjoyed reliable electricity supply through the Sarawak Alternative Rural Electrification Scheme (Sares).
"Previously they used diesel generators but now they have solar power," he added.
Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah, who hosted the Gawai open house with 16 other Dayak state and Federal leaders, concurred that traffic congestion in rural areas was a sign that development had trickled down to the people.
"This is important because one of the principles of the post-Covid-19 development strategy towards 2030 is social inclusivity.
"We must make sure that our development programmes, be it roads, infrastructure, economic development, education or health, should be able to benefit all Sarawakians no matter where they are," he said.
Uggah, who is also Infrastructure and Port Development Minister, added that his ministry was now in the final stages of developing the road network in the state.
"We are finalising the last-mile connection to various villages, with about 5,000km of roads to be built.
"We hope this can be done before 2030, because once we reach 2030 we aim to become a high-income economy," he said.
The open house attracted hundreds of visitors, many dressed in traditional attire.
Abang Johari and other dignitaries took to the stage to entertain the crowd with a number of folk songs.
Dayak culture was also on show with traditional dances performed by the Dayak Cultural Foundation.