KUCHING, 16 March 2022: The Sarawak state government has
launched the Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS) plans to see Malaysia’s
largest state doubling its economic pie with a forecast GDP of RM282 billion by
2030 from just RM136 billion in 2019.

While the state government has put in place a strategic
roadmap to achieve its plan in the next 10 years, Pankaj Kumar, an investment
and economic analyst, says it is even more crucial for Sarawak to step up on
its aviation industry, which plays a key role to not only drive the tourism
industry but businesses as well.

“More than 5.95 million vaccine doses have been administered
to individuals across Sarawak, with the state also recording the highest
vaccination rate of children aged five to 11 years in the country. With the
economy opening up, it is time for Sarawak to strategise and bring in more
tourist arrivals.

“Unlike Sabah, which has only the Kota Kinabalu
International Airport (KKIA), Sarawak has two international airports, the
Kuching International Airport (KIA) and the Miri International Airport (MIA).

“However, Sabah’s KKIA has direct flights to more
international destinations, and this includes those to Bandar Sri Begawan,
Tokyo (seasonal), Manila, Singapore, Busan, Seoul, and Taipei. For KIA, the
only direct flights available are those from Bandar Sri Begawan, Singapore,
while for MIA, Scoot Tigerair is currently the only airline that offers two
direct flights from Singapore to Miri per week, despite the city’s
international airport status.”

“Being the largest state in Malaysia, Sarawak is
well-positioned to be a tourism hub in Borneo as we have seen the data that
shows it has tremendous growth potential in terms of tourist arrivals.”

In terms of infrastructure, Sarawak has spent substantially
on airport infrastructure, especially with the new airports in Mukah (in June
2021) and various other expansions in other airports. However, Pankaj opines
that the two main airports, KIA and MIA need further investments as both have
outlived their present capacity.

“KIA handled some 5.96 million passengers, while MIA
served 2.43 million passengers in 2019 while the design capacity of both of
these airports is at 5 million and 2 million respectively. The federal
government will need to fund the expansion of these two airports, especially
concerning the baggage handling system, airline check-in counters, additional
immigration counters, and larger departure areas, plus increasing boarding
gates.

“Sarawak, which accounts for about 9.5% of the nation’s
GDP in 2020, has tremendous potential, especially concerning its tourism
industry. However, the state and federal governments need to work together to
bring Sarawak to the next level with better connectivity, improved airport
capabilities, and make Sarawak a true frontier Malaysian state,” Pankaj
concluded.