Abang Johari waters the bamboo plant as others look on. – Photo by Sarawak Public Communications Unit

BINTULU (Nov 1): Sarawak has a bright future with its economy upgraded to a level that is able to attract its talents working abroad back home, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

With its rich resources, vast space and talents, he believes Sarawak could even surpass Singapore one day.

“Many Sarawakian professionals working abroad have returned home. We started a methanol plant, and many Sarawakians who worked for Shell overseas have returned.

“We want to start our ammonia project after methanol. The same goes for Sarawakians who worked in the transportation sector in Kuala Lumpur, they have also returned home.

“We established our own sovereign fund and Sarawakians working in Singapore come back because they know our economy has improved.

“Back then, there were no jobs that match their talent in Sarawak. You do not blame brain-drain because our economy doesn’t match with their training.

“But now we have upgraded our economy to a level that will bring in people with brains. That’s why I think Sarawak has a bright future,” he said.

He pointed out that Singapore “has brains” but no electricity and lack of land space, contrary to Sarawak which has electricity and vast land space, but lacks needed talent.

“But we can train our people. If we train our people, we will be more advanced than Singapore one day,” he said before witnessing the signing of memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) and Pertama Ferroalloys Sdn Bhd here yesterday on the Samalaju Greening Project and Supply of Sustainable Raw Material Through Bamboo Cultivations.

On another matter, Abang Johari said he met with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong together with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Anwar Ibrahim three days ago.

He said Singapore had expressed its wish to set up a Consulate-General mission in Kuching to strengthen its cooperation with Sarawak.

On the bamboo cultivation project, Abang Johari said Sarawak aims to increase its bamboo export value from RM1.2 million recorded last year to RM10 million per year.

“The global bamboo market size was estimated at US$66.22 billion in 2022.

“I was informed that Malaysia’s bamboo products export value last year was RM8.43 million,” he said.

He expressed optimism that the use of technology in the cultivation of bamboo, which is an indigenous plant to Sarawak, will succeed.

When met later, Abang Johari said bamboo cultivation is part of the state’s planted forest.

“One of the strategic products is for energy generation. Bamboo is a renewable source and the biomass energy produced from bamboo pellets can be used for furnaces including for power generation.

“The function is similar to coal but the material is not like coal. Coal is hydrocarbon but this one is fibre transformed into wood charcoal,” he explained.

Earlier in his speech, Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said under this project, BDA has identified around 100 hectares of Samalaju area for bamboo plantation while Pertama Ferroalloys has around 40 hectares (ha) of land in the mill site for bamboo cultivation.

He said around 3,000ha of bamboo plantations are needed for Pertama Ferroalloys to produce 60,000 green metric tons of bamboo to ensure sustainable supply of raw materials for energy generation for their mill operation.

“STIDC has set a target to establish a minimum of 10,000ha of commercial bamboo plantations and 2,000ha dedicated to bamboo cultivation for the benefit of the local community by the year 2030.

“This visionary goal underscores their commitment to sustainable bamboo forestry and community development.

“As of September this year, we managed to collaborate with the industry to plant around 2,800ha.

“For local community involvement, around 137 participants have been registered with STIDC with a planting area of 60ha.

“We will enhance our initiatives to reach our target of designated planting areas by intensifying our awareness programmes and reviewing our seedling distribution process.

“It will not only help us meet our targets but also foster greater engagement between both commercial and community entities,” he said.

Awang Tengah’s text of speech was read by Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Urban Development Datuk Len Talif Salleh.

BDA general manager Datu Muhamad Yakup Kari exchanged the MoU with Pertama Ferroalloys general manager Yuki Nakamura at the ceremony.

Also present were State Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar and State Secretary Datuk Amar Mohd Abu Bakar Marzuki.