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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at Dataran Labuan today. Pix by Edmund Samunting

LABUAN: Diversifying resources in the Federal Territory of Labuan is vital in ensuring that the island develops at par with other areas in the country.

When launching the Labuan Development Blueprint 2030 here on Thursday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that the government aspires for the island to become sustainably-competitive, while also taking into account the importance of Labuan’s oil and gas industry.

"The recovery of (global) oil prices (to its original high) might not become a reality, so we need to diversify. We owe (this to) Labuan, as it is one of the government's strongholds.

"The most high-impact project for the people of Labuan is likely to be the proposed bridge (linking Labuan and mainland Sabah)," he added.

Najib said even though the project is not viable in terms of cost, the government is looking not just at the rate of return, but overall development.

"We will see the handing-over of the appointment letter to the consultant handling the study for the bridge today.

"This is not a feasibility study, as the project has been announced by the government, but to study the method of implementation," the prime minister added.

"We cannot quantify how the bridge will become a catalyst for Labuan's development. If it spurs economic activity; if it allows folks here to travel easily to mainland Sabah and vice versa; if it makes investors more confident to invest here, then it is worth it to build the bridge.

"And if the current government continues (its mandate), we will return here to launch the bridge in future," said Najib, adding that he hopes the study will be completed soon.

Meanwhile, the prime minister also called the Blueprint – which covers the Labuan IBFC Transformation Plan – a game changer which will maintain the island’s attractiveness regionally.

As part of the Blueprint, Najib also launched two affordable housing projects during the event – a 500-unit people's housing programme (PPR), and a 160-unit 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Project (PPA1M) located in Batu Arang.

"The 500-unit PPR (costing RM107.7 million) is complemented by facilities like a surau, a kindergarten, a community hall and food stalls.

"What is interesting is that PPR Batu Arang units can be rented for RM124 a month.

"A unit can be bought… for RM42,000, compared to its original cost of RM215,000, which means we subsidise RM173,000 per unit," he said.

For the PPA1M Batu Arang project, the government has allocated RM3.08 million in facilitation funds as a subsidy to help civil servant in Labuan own homes.

The terrace units, ranging in price from RM190,000 and RM195,000, are 40 per cent lower than market price.

Meanwhile, Najib also witnessed the signing ceremony for the Labuan Grand Prix of the Sea, which will see the annual Powerboat P1 World Cup organised here for five years.

"This event will make Labuan the only island to comprehensively showcase sea sports.

"I was made to understand it will be covered by the international media, hence strengthening Labuan's branding,” he added.

Meanwhile, Labuan Member of Parliament Datuk Rozman Datuk Isli earlier said that they have identified the Labuan International Sea Sports Complex, which was completed 15 years ago, as the venue for the prestigious event.

"Labuan will be the final leg for the competition every year," he added.

On the proposed bridge, Rozman said that the project has been described as the final stretch to connect the Pan Borneo Highway.

He also announced that a duty-free premium outlet, the first of its kind in the country, will be opened in Labuan soon.

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