THE recent announcement that Samarahan will have a food processing centre is indeed great news for farmers and all who are involved in the business in Sarawak. This type of centre should have been built long ago in many other food processing areas in the state. The main reason why such food processing centres were not built is lack of roads; without the connecting roads, no investor would put money into huge farms for food processing as most food products are easily perishable.
Even when Tanjong Manis in the Rejang basin was set up with numerous facilities, the number of investors was fewer than expected due to the lack of large food suppliers despite the fact that Sarikei, the closest town to Tanjong Manis, is often referred to as the food basket of Sarawak.
Another telling reason for why investors did not jump in was the shortage of labor in the state. Almost every business sector complains of the shortage of labour as a handicap for large-scale industries to flourish here. The construction of the Pan Borneo Highway is a major step towards linking the various parts of the state with a reliable road network.
Sarawak, however, has a distinct advantage in power generation. This is one of the brightest spot for the state’s future growth, provided the rate charged is advantageous for would-be investors. The numerous water dams and ever-ready supply of natural gas make Sarawak a surplus for energy generation. This must be the selling point for Sarawak’s future growth.
With so much potential readily available, there must be a fresh look at how Sarawak can leverage on them to sustainably develop for future generations.
Director, Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs