Ten thousand people turned out in Serian in March to see Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, launch the third phase of the RM16 billion Pan Borneo Highway project.

This phase, the biggest so far, involves RM1.46 billion-worth of construction work on a 75km section of the highway from Serian to Pantu.

The Prime Minister, who is also Malaysia’s Finance Minister, promised Sarawakians that work on the Pan Borneo Highway would go ahead even if global oil and commodity prices continued falling. And he repeated the pledge that there would be no toll charges for travelling on the highway.

The project would be a catalyst for growth and a game-changer that would bring huge social and economic transformation across Sarawak, Najib said.

In theory, he explained, the overall impact of the Pan Borneo Highway would be an eight-fold multiplier effect on Sarawak’s economy.

He pointed out that the states of Peninsular Malaysia, from Perlis to Johor, had experienced rapid growth and economic development since the 770km North-South Expressway was completed in 1994 and that Sarawak could expect the same dramatic results.

“Even before the completion of the Pan Borneo Highway, the project has brought new prosperity to Sarawak and its businesses, as all the related contracts are only given to Sarawakian companies owned by Sarawakians,” he said.

“If we want a united and developed state, we must provide better connectivity for the people, not only in terms of telecommunications but also in terms of mobility. That is why it is important that the highway will be toll-free.”

The Pan Borneo Highway has a crucial role to play in the development of SCORE, providing the backbone for a modern and integrated transport infrastructure.

In relation to the project, a total of ten new construction work phases will be started before the end of 2016.