Abang Johari speaking at the official state New Year countdown event at Kuching Waterfront last night. – Photo by Roystein Emmor

KUCHING (Jan 1): The Sarawak government may take over more major organisations this year as part of its wider efforts to drive the growth of the economy and protect the state’s rights, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Abang Johari said the state economy has been steadily progressing for the past six years, including achieving a record state revenue of RM13.1 billion in 2023, compared with the RM11.9 billion in 2022.

“There may be more major organisations that we will take over in 2024. Let me announce when we have taken over and pray that our revenue will continue to increase,” he said during the New Year countdown at Kuching Waterfront last night.

Abang Johari expressed his gratitude to the federal government for their cooperation in returning numerous state rights as enshrined under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

He also explained that the state’s intention of introducing its own school assessments is to evaluate the academic standards of the school children, as well as identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

“These days, everything now seems automatic. There are no more examinations in Primary 6 (to evaluate a student’s academic performance) before enrolling into Form 1. There are also no more examinations in Form Three before moving into Form Four,” he said, adding that the federal education policies would sometimes be inconsistent.

Abang Johari said he aspires for Sarawak to be the most developed in the country by 2030 and in line with this, there needs to be a pool of talented human capital to cater to the development needs of the state.

With the record state revenue and economic growth achieved this year, he said the state government has introduced various initiatives to ensure that the public can feel the spillover benefits of the rapid economic development.

Among the initiatives were providing free laptop, assistance in paying the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans, free book vouchers, the RM1,000 endowment fund for each newborn and free tertiary education at state-owned institutions of higher learning starting 2026.

“Some parties are questioning whether we can sustain the free provision of tertiary education. I can assure you that we can sustain it as long as Sarawakians are united behind us.”

Abang Johari also said the state government continues to prioritise development in rural areas, including providing 24-hour electricity supply, reliable water supply and constructing road and bridges.

On a separate matter, the Premier said the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had been impressed by the unity shown among the races during his recent visit to the state when the King travelled 2,154 kilometres across the state via the Pan Borneo Highway.

Abang Johari also credited both the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem and the former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for initiating the construction of the Pan Borneo Highway that is without tolls.

During the countdown event at Kuching Waterfront, the tallest flagpole in Southeast Asia, measuring 99 metres in height, flying the Sarawak state flag named officially as ‘Ibu Pertiwi’ was launched by Abang Johari.

Abang Johari also revealed the RM30-million flagpole project was funded by Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) and Shell Malaysia as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).