KUCHING, Nov 8 — Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg today announced a RM5.78 billion state budget for 2018 against an expected total revenue of RM5.53 billion.
He said the proposed budget is estimated to register a deficit of RM256 million.
“The state revenue has been on a declining trend since 2015, significantly impacted by the falling of oil and gas prices and reducing receipts from forestry and dividend income while expenditure is on a rising trend,” Abang Johari said when presenting the State Budget in the state assembly.
Against this background, he said the government will intensify research and development activities with a view of sourcing new revenue stream to the state, such as tax and levy on valuable commodities as well as royalties from patents.
“In light of the increasingly challenging global economic environment arising from various uncertainties, it is imperative that the state continues to have an expansionary fiscal policy.
“This is also to ensure a continual development momentum in the state to support the state’s much needed economic and rural development as well as to sustain a desired level of economic growth,” he said.
The chief minister said digital economy will become a key thrust in the state’s future economy and is now included as a new economic strategy in the state budget proposal for 2018.
He added the digital economy is a forward looking strategy and the technologies that underpin it will be fundamentally for the state’s success and prosperity.
“Therefore, the 2018 budget proposal will support the state’s vision to maximise the potential of digital technology and digitalisation to bring Sarawak to the global digital playing field,” he said, adding that it is his dream that Sarawak will one day be known as “S-Sarawak” where “S” stands for “smart”.
Abang Johari said the state government is committed to provide RM1 billion for digital infrastructure and programmes under the Sarawak Digital Economy Initiatives, among others, to accelerate and advance the state economic growth.
He welcomed the federal Budget 2018 tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as it does meet the aspirations of the people of Sarawak, including providing allocations for infrastructure for schools, water supplies, village roads and broadband and telecommunication service improvement.
Among the key projects in the state, he said, are RM2 billion for construction of Pan-Borneo Highway, RM1 billion for upgrading, refurbishing and repair works of dilapidated schools and surveying and mapping of the native customary land amounting to RM30 million.