Sarawak DAP today called on the government to review its plans to build 13 dams in Sarawak following the failure of high-tech industries in the Samajaya industrial zone in Kuching.
“The state government should review its plan not for environmental reasons nor for the settlement of the indigenous people, but for economic reasons,” said Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen.
“The dam industry may look good on our gross domestic product (GDP), but too much concentration on it is very dangerous to our economic development,” he said.
“What the government is doing now is putting all the eggs in one basket, that is, putting RM15 billion into the dam projects in order to generate electricity which is to be sold to smelting plants,” he said.
Chong (left), who is the MP for Bandar Kuching and assemblyperson for Kota Sentosa, was commenting on reports that the Sanmina-SCI Corporation at Samajaya, Kuching was closing down.
Scores of workers have been retrenched while those who remain are now given three days a week to work.
“Up to now Sanmina has been one of the successful companies in Samajaya. There are not many companies there, despite the fact that the government had spent billions of ringgit to develop Samajaya.
“If you go to Samajaya now, you can hardly see many factories. All in all, the Samajaya project is a failure.
“The largest failure is First Silicon which alone has caused the government to lose an estimated RM3 billion,” he said.
Chong, who has an economics degree as well as a law degree, said: “This is an example whereby the policy planners did not capitalise on the strengths of our economy but are venturing into some high-tech industries which we are incapable of managing.
“High-tech is not that simple because at the end of the day we will flop. But one of the justifications is that we created jobs for the local people.
“Learning from this failure, I urge the government to review its plans for energy-intensive industry development policy, that is, building dams.
“Why I call for that is mainly because what the government is doing now is concentrating its efforts on building more dams and selling the energy to smelting plants.
‘Subject to economic cycles’
“This smelting industry is also subject to economic cycles - the booms and depressions. When there is a depression, they pull out, leaving behind excess energy and this will go to waste.
“If this happens, Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) will not be able to repay its RM15 billion loan,” he said, referring to the loan which the SEB secured early this year to finance the proposed 13 dam projects in the state.
Chong said that in spite of the fact that there are no buyers yet, the government is going ahead with the projects and putting RM15 billion into the dam projects is very dangerous.
“Even when we have the buyers, what will happen if the buyers just like Sanmina pull out when the economic situation is not good?
“When we cannot sell the energy, then we will be burdened with the debt of RM15 billion.
“SEB will become bankrupt with the debt as it has no way to repay the loan. When SEB is bankrupt, the domestic consumers will suffer because they have to pay for higher tariffs,” he said.
“But my question is, why is the government so foolhardily planning to build so many dams? We should learn a lesson from from the failure of Samajaya.
“Is it because the benefit goes to CMS - the sole cement distributor in Sarawak, which is owned by the family members of the chief minister?” he asked.