KUCHING: The Sarawak government does not rely entirely on its strategic geographical position and natural resources to attract investment but also constantly improves its policies and services to maintain a healthy business ecosystem.

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the state government is aware of the needs of investors of both foreign direct investment (FDI) and domestic direct investment (DDI) who want a suitable business climate to invest their capital and benefit from their efforts.

"The investors also think in terms of the state's position and we are fortunate, in terms of our position, very strategic, with China only a six-hour flight away.

"We are also upgrading our road and sea connectivity, we upgrade our airports and ports from time to time and we are constantly improving our telecommunications system," he said in an exclusive interview with Bernama here, recently.

Awang Tengah said the state's business-friendly policies were pioneered by its fifth Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud who is now Sarawak Yang di-Pertua Negeri.

It was continued and improved according to current needs and changing times by subsequent chief ministers, namely Allahyarham Tan Sri Adenan Satem and currently Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, he added.

Awang Tengah, who is also Sarawak Minister of International Trade and Industry, Industrial Terminal and Entrepreneur Development, said the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country for the past two years had affected Sarawak's trade mission planning.

"During the pandemic, everything stopped. Many were affected but we are thankful that even in this challenging situation, investors were still interested despite not being able to meet us physically as we always have meetings, virtual meetings," he said.

As a result of this online meeting method, he said Sarawak was able to receive investments worth RM15.7 billion for the next two years which further positioned the state as a major investment destination in Malaysia.

Through the meetings, he said investors received a clear explanation of Sarawak's trade-friendly policy which, among others, included competitive electricity and water tariffs and affordable land premiums.

"Even if the investors can complete the project within the stipulated time, they are entitled to a rebate. The policy of attracting investors, through the state's business-friendly approach, is one of the policies that attract investors and we provide it apart from federal government incentives," he said.

Awang Tengah said the development and investment policies were in line with the direction of the Sarawak administration led by Abang Johari who wanted to go further into the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (IR4.0) era and the digital economy.

At the same time, he said Sarawak civil servants also played an efficient role in meeting the needs of investors and were ready to provide information even though they sometimes had to meet with investors beyond office hours.

He said those interested in investing in Sarawak would arrive regardless of times to find out about the investment opportunities available in the state that require information from certain officials in his ministry.

"Even outside office hours, even on weekends, I call them (state government officials) and we met these investors. They (investors) wanted a short time for us to decide... time means money for investors.

"Some of the investors who came (to Sarawak) were willing to be quarantined. At that time, they came even though we already had virtual meetings, but they came here and were willing to be quarantined for two weeks," he said.

Awang Tengah also commended the role played by local educational institutions and technical colleges in in making Sarawak an investment attraction by working together to produce a workforce suitable for the future needs of industries in the state.

In addition, he said the Sarawak government also receives cooperation from business organisations that provide input on areas that should be prioritised through their network of business partners in other countries.

In a related development, Awang Tengah said the state government, through the post-COVID-19 development strategy, had set six economic sectors to be given emphasis, namely manufacturing, commercial agriculture, tourism, forestry, communications, and social services.

"These sectors will be strengthened with seven enablers such as digital transformation, innovation, basic infrastructure, transportation, utilities, renewable energy, as well as education and human capital development," he said.