Image credit: The Star

SERIAN (Aug 22): Sarawak must improve its digital infrastructure in order to attract more investors, particularly those from South Korea and Japan, said the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to East Asia (South Korea, Japan and Taiwan) Dato Sri Richard Riot Jaem.

He revealed that from his conversation with the ambassadors and investors from these countries, digitalisation has been mentioned numerous times as the new way of doing business.

As such, he expressed support for Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s efforts to move Sarawak’s economy towards digitalisation, and he hoped the implementation can be expedited and also expanded to the rural areas.

“We must be thankful to the chief minister because one of the areas he is focusing on is to ensure that digitalisation, or internet services, is accessible in Sarawak and hopefully in more parts in the state.

“Because if you do not have internet, you can’t work these days. That is what the Japanese ambassador and the South Korean ambassador were telling me.

“To be fair to the chief minister, he is doing his best to increase internet penetration in the state and we hope this will be completed soon,” he told the media after meeting with Small and Medium Entrepreneurs Association Sarawak (SME Sarawak) at a hotel here today.

Riot, who is also Serian MP, said much more can be done to improve internet penetration in the state so that more Sarawakians can participate in digital economy and also participate in online learning.

“For example, in my own ‘kampung’ (village) Pichin, there is no internet although it is located only 15km away from Serian. I have also raised this matter up in Parliament.

“Even in Tebedu, when you go there, the telecommunications signal from Indonesia is stronger,” he said.

On a related matter, Riot said his task as Special Envoy to East Asia was not only about luring investors from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan but also to facilitate joint collaborations to enable local products to penetrate into those countries.

He also expressed his regret that he could not yet initiate trade missions to these countries due to travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We pray and hope that the pandemic will end soon. And once it is over, I hope it is not too late for me to do it.

“As a Sarawakian of course I want to lure investors to Sarawak, and not forgetting Serian where I am the Member of Parliament,” he said.

He also said that within two months following his appointment, he has met presidents of Taipei Investors Association in Malaysia and Japanese Chamber of Trade and Industry in Malaysia on issues including new investment opportunities in Malaysia.

Regarding today’s meeting with SME Sarawak, Riot said it was a fruitful discussion on potential business opportunities for these SMEs in the East Asian market.

He pointed out that the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 (next year) presented a good opportunity for local companies from Sarawak, particularly the halal food market, to cater to athletes and visitors travelling to Japan for the sporting event.

“During the discussion, I also suggested why not invest in ‘tuak’ (local rice wine) and ‘terung asam’ (sour eggplant) for export. Those in East Asia are familiar with rice wine and I am sure they will be interested in our ‘terung asam’ which can’t be found elsewhere,” he added.

Meanwhile, SME Sarawak advisor Dato Raymond Jolly and president Datuk Seri Charles Voon also expressed their support for digital infrastructure to be improved.

They also hoped to have more collaborations and form joint ventures with counterparts in East Asia to market products and services there and vice versa.