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Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg (second from left) at Kuching, today. Pix by Nadim Bokhari

KUCHING: Sarawak has announced a 2019 budget of RM11.9 billion – the biggest in its history.

Chief Minister Abang Johari Abang Openg said 76 per cent, or RM9.076 billion, of the funds have been allocated for development expenditures; while RM2.841 billion, or 24 per cent, have been earmarked for operating expenditures.

Out of the 76 per cent, RM8.813 billion will be funded by the state, while RM260 million will be financed by the federal government through reimbursable loans and grants.

Abang Johari said RM6.049 billion of the total development expenditure will be used to intensify rural developments – a sum higher than the allocations in 2017 (RM2.982 billion) and (2018) RM3.062 billion.

“This budget is a development-based and rural-focussed budget to stimulate a higher level of economic activity and economic progress for Sarawak,” he added

When tabling the state budget at the 18th Sarawak Legislative Assembly sitting at the DUN complex here today, Abang Johari said the development expenditure will finance various programmes and projects under the 11th Malaysia Plan, including socio-economic rural transformations, as well as other digital initiatives.

Meanwhile, RM81.7 million has been allocated to rebuild, repair and upgrade schools in the state, including the premises’ water and electricity supplies.

Sarawak has 1,020 dilapidated schools, 415 of which are considered critically dilapidated.

“We have to step in to facilitate the development of schools since the national 2019 Budget did not indicate any allocation for dilapidated schools in Sarawak,” Abang Johari said.

Apart from that, the Chief Minister also announced a new policy whereby every newborn Sarawakian will be given a one-off incentive of RM1,000, regardless of ethnicity, religious belief and social status, effective Jan 1, 2019.

The incentive can only be withdrawn upon the child reaching the age of 18, as it is meant to help finance their studies, or as capital to pursue their career, he added.

“With the injection of higher public investment, the state economy is projected to grow at five per cent next year.

“Hence, we are ready to provide allocation to finance priority and high-impact projects,” Abang Johari said.

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