With talks of independence and secession buzzing once again on the social media, many are feeling uneasy. Secession. Sarawak for Sarawakians. Sabah for Sabahans. Independence. These words are all too familiar. Once upon a time, I too favour a politically independent Sarawak. Until a time when I realised independence for the sake of independence will not solve all our problems. If anything, it could open up a can of worms.
Let’s focus more on the implications on Sarawak for the time being.
Are we an economic powerhouse?
An independent Sarawak is only as strong as its economy, culture and work ethics. Many economists argue on the fragile state of global economy. Uncertainty looms over the euro. American public debt increasing each day. Restructuring of the Chinese economy – structurally as well as its legal framework. All these can and will effect a small nation that relies on the export of timber, palm oil and some oil & gas products.
One idea to strengthen a Sarawak dollar was to benchmark the currency against a commodity. Something like the gold standard of ages past. But take a moment and look at the movement of gold prices. It, too, is highly unstable. Why? Because of speculation. Of course this is different from having gold reserves. But the main point is relying on a single commodity is too risky.
Rather what we need to do is, as maintained from 2009, begin a culture of entrepreneurship and micro-entrepreneurship. My favourite example is the British economy in the 80s. Things became so bad that the pound was devalued. Jobs were scarce. Workers were striking. Came a lady called Margaret Thatcher of the Tories. She pushed the economy by reducing taxes, cutting spending AND increasing the number of small and medium enterprises. The more players there are, the larger the market becomes. The larger the market, the more money would flow. However the growth must be sustainable. Here is where the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) comes in.
In a recent Aidilfitri meet with young Sarawakians, His Excellency the Governor, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, was asked “Are Sarawakian youths ready to take up the economic mantle?” Tun responded by saying:
SCORE needs, at present, 3,000 skilled workers. Each year the demand for skilled workers will increase. These people and businesses need to eat, need a place to stay. Opportunities are there; but are our youths ready? It is really up to them.
Note: I paraphrased what my friend, an attendee who asked the question, told me.
Let’s Look at What We Can Do…
Moving up one point higher, in an economy fueled by the Internet, service-based industries are also likely to help accelerate our growth. Many writers and “well-to-dos” are beginning to feed the need of internet users to acquire skills or perform tasks. Tim Ferriss (Link: http://fourhourworkweek.com/blog/), who wrote The Four Hour Work Week, is enjoying the fruits of the marketplace. His business model is simple:
- Supply products meeting the needs of a fix number of people
- Create an automated distribution channel using websites and social media tools
- Engage in virtual assistants in India or the Philippines to help coordinate the orders and work
- Travel and enjoy
Tim Ferriss is not the only one! We have the likes of Anton Kraly (Link: http://www.createtravelplay.com/about/), Pat Flynn of The Smart Passive Income (http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/) and many more. They created valuable information products that people are willing to buy. This is after they gave away free and practical insights.
My point is this: microentrepreneurship in today’s age isn’t just selling pisang goreng at the roadside in Kota Samarahan. Besides just that, you have the ability to bring what you have to offer into and showcase them to a larger audience. You can teach people from simple mathematics to guitar playing. You can offer consultancy businesses to advertising agencies in Singapore, the UK, the United States and even in Australia.
I dare say such things because from 2008 to 2012, I handled copywriting projects for clients remotely. We communicated via SMS (no whatsapp back then), emails and Yahoo! Messenger. I built up some experience until I became a Junior Copywriter with Primeworks Studios Sdn Bhd. I saw my work aired in TV3, 8TV, ntv7 and tv9. After that, I collaborated with an international advertising agency with offices in Milan, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne in a RM1million project.
What is the Effect for Sarawak and Sarawakians
We are living in an interesting age where performers are starting to move away from Kuala Lumpur and West Malaysia. They’d rather go to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu. I have had the liberty of meeting young men who organised rock concerts annually since 2007! One of them recently graduated from Universiti Teknologi MARA Sarawak with his business degree!
Steadily as Sarawakians are able to deliver quality services and produce more, we are branding our nation. We encourage money coming in – aren’t you being paid for your services? As Sarawak’s revenue from SMEs increase, the reliance on Putrajaya and Petroleum decreases. We create and generate another stream of revenue for the state.
With the right exposure, we could even be the creative and technological hub in ASEAN if not the Asia Pacific region. As we become the authority in our respective fields, we’re actually bringing constructive attention to our community.
When this finally happens, we become an economic powerhouse in our own right, we might end up dominating the Federation.
I put to you a more practical example: how many Sarawakians are employed by companies linked to “allegedly corrupt Sarawakian polticians”? The likes of NAIM, CMS, Shin Yang, Samling and more. NAIM, in its own right, is making a name for itself in producing quality residential, commercial and industrial properties. How many contractors and subcontractors benefit from them? Now let’s consider “Malaysian companies”: how many Sarawakians are employed and given senior positions in Sime Darby, UEM Land, IJN Land, Axis, Axiata, Malaysian Airlines, Malaysian Airport Holdings Berhad, Petronas etc.?
Why do you think the Sarawak State Government initiates many training programmes for graduates. Mind you, the State Government has created SL1M like programmes since years past. I know people who benefit from it personally. I’ve interviewed people who are in such programmes.
Besides that: think of the many institutions of higher learning the Government has been creating. From Swinburne and Curtin to Kolej Laila Taib and all. Why? Because we need the professionals. Did you know that as recent as last year, the Chief Minister’s Office even had a programme to sponsor rural kids to pursue their studies in Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak? A friend who works there disclosed to me how our rural folks refuse to even thinking of sending their kids to do their diploma and degree!
The Onus is On Us
Whatever the drama West Malaysia or geopolitics throws at us, until we can stand on our own feet economically speaking, we will always be open to attacks. Whatever the politicians say, at the and of the day you and I decide what’s best for our livelihood and our future.
No doubt we have to comply with procedures. Follow them until we are able to make procedure follow us. Together let us make Kuching, Betong, Miri, Mukah, Sibu, Kapit, Beluru, Belaga, etc “attractive and lucrative” centres of trade and technology. You may not trust the system, I know I don’t. But I trust in you. I trust in us, Sarawakians. For our fairland.