Sarawak will be another “Sabah” beset with problems of immigrants if the state government goes ahead with its plans to import 600,000 skilled labourers to work in the much- talked about Sarawak Corridor Renewal of Energy (SCORE) by 2030.
“This figure represents 20% of the Sarawak’s population, and an influx of such a number of people will have an impact on the cohesion of the ethnic community of Sarawak,” said Ba’Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian, who is the Sarawak PKR chief.
Bian, who issued the warning, was referring to Sabah which is riddled with immigrants’ problems.
According to the 2010 census, there are more than 1.037 million immigrants in Sabah and some 737,000 others are “Project IC” citizens.
Sabah and Labuan have a population of 3.309 million.
Local native-born Sabahans are now increasingly marginalised in every aspect of their lives.
Debating on the 2012 state budget, Bian, who is also the Pakatan Rakyat’s shadow Land Development and NCR Minister, said: “As the state is short of skilled labour, the government plans to bring in 600,000 skilled workers to drive the economic activities generated by SCORE.
“What is the political impact of importing these workers when over 30% of Sarawak’s labour force lacks the functional literacy to integrate into the economy?
“To what extent will they be economically excluded or marginalised? How will the foreign workers assimilate into our society?
“There is a need to conduct a social impact study to ensure that the economic benefits generated by SCORE are diffused to the people of Sarawak.
“We are concerned that Sarawak will be another Sabah. We would like some clarification and assurance from the minister on these issues,” he said.
No information on Score
Bian said that every day Sarawakians read news about SCORE, but todate nobody knows the actual details of the development plan including “what it is all about or what it involves”.
“There appears to be not much of transparency about this mega project. From reading news release and articles on SCORE, the project appears to focus on the manufacturing sector or secondary sector because it aims to use the power from the Bakun Dam,” he said.
He added that the secondary sector in 2006 accounted for 31.5% or RM13.24 billion of the state’s GDP, according to the 2009 yearbook of statistics.
“Based on these figures, I was informed that the projection for secondary GDP for 2025 is RM42 billion and this implies a compound growth rate of at least 10.3% since 2006.
“However, this is not happening. The historical yearly compound growth rate during the 2002-2007 period was only 3.35%.
“And according to the Chief Minister’s budget speech, the state economy is expected to record a favourable growth of 4.5% in 2011.
“Sarawak does not have the critical mass of skilled manpower to sustain such a high growth rate at 10.3%, because according to the 2009 yearbook of statistics, as of 2008, 33.7% of the labour force, more than 223,000 or 24%, is in the primary sector and less than 10% in the plant and machine, operator and assembler sector,” Bian said.
Basic needs not met
According to Bian, experts on SCORE projected that by 2040, the manufacturing sub-sector will account for 47% of the GDP of the state.
This, he said, was hypothetical. He cited China and South Korea as examples.
He said that in 2008, the manufacturing sector in China was 32% of her GDP and South Korea 25% despite the fact that these countries invested heavily in human resource development.
Bian added that in 2008 only 4,439 out of 513,387 students in Sarawak enrolled themselves in seven technical or vocational schools.
“It is difficult to believe that the import of 600,000 skilled migrant workers will help increase GDP contribution of the manufacturing sector to 47% by 2040 exceeding that of China,” he said.
He said that Sarawak was still lagging in terms of basic necessities for the people.
He said that some 500,000 people were not connected to the electricity grid and 450,000 have no access to treated water.
Education facilities, road infrastructure and health services are in urgent need of improvement, Bian said.
“What is the justification for SCORE if the state cannot even settle and solve these most basic and more pressing needs?” he asked.