SIBU: The Regional Corridor Development Authority (RECODA) today concluded its Upper Rajang Development Agency (URDA) Socio-Economic Lab which started on Monday.

Participants included elected representatives, government officers and community leaders who identified the needs and expectations of local communities, as well as proposed programmes, projects, mechanisms and suitable business models for a comprehensive URDA Socio-Economic Development Plan (2022-2026).

The two-and-a-half-day lab is the final part of a series of socio-economic labs that kicked off in Miri by the Highland Development Agency (HDA) on March 3 and followed by the Northern Regional Development Agencies in Lawas on March 22.

Each regional development agency under RECODA will have its own socio-economic development plan for the next five years.

In closing the lab today, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister who is also URDA Chairman Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi spoke at length on the history of URDA creation where the agency, he said, had become the game changer for the Upper Rajang basin.

“We want the development in the Upper Rajang to be more focused. Hence, URDA’s immediate task is to implement infrastructure development projects in the Upper Rajang basin.

“With better infrastructure, the socio-economic programmes are needed to uplift the livelihood of the people so that they can have more income,” he said.

Nanta opined that the Upper Rajang basin had big potential in food production due to its vast land area as food security has become an important agenda in the country.

He also said there was a need to replenish the rivers in the basin as it is rich in fisheries which can eventually be tapped into its full potential.

Nanta applauded the community leaders who have come from all corners of the region overseen by URDA, namely from the districts of Kapit, Song, Kanowit, Belaga and Bukit Mabong.

URDA is currently implementing 43 infrastructure projects including amenities, masterplans and buildings amounting to RM1.5 billion which are high impact in nature, covering the land area of 41,463km², which is bigger than the biggest state in Peninsular Malaysia, Pahang.

These projects aim to improve the quality of life and to bridge the divide between the rural and urban residents by improving connectivity, to enable efficient transport of goods and services, hence lowering the cost of doing business in URDA area.

RECODA has created specific masterplans to develop Kapit, Bakun and Belaga under URDA to spur growth potentials and attract more investments.

“I want to assure everyone that the government remains committed to ensuring that all communities have an equal chance to enjoy the fruits of development.

“This can be done by creating and improving an ideal climate for investment through business-friendly policies and initiatives to shore up the confidence of both the local and foreign investors”, Nanta said.

Meanwhile, RECODA Chief Executive Officer Datu Ismawi Ismuni said RECODA’s Socio-Economic Development Plans will be benchmarked against international best practices and that they will be aligned with PCDS 2030, 12th Malaysia Plan and United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“This will ensure that the Socio-Economic Development Plan is not only equitable but also sustainable, both socially and environmentally,” he said in his concluding remarks.

“During this lab, I am happy to note that all the participants were enthusiastic and shared their wisdom and knowledge as well as expertise on the best approaches to implement the socio-economic programmes to uplift the livelihood of the people.”

“The ultimate goal of our Socio-Economic Development Plan is of course to improve the welfare and livelihoods of the local communities in all our Development Agencies areas including URDA, which is one of the overarching objectives of the SCORE Development Agenda,” he said.

RECODA is a statutory body set up in 2006 to oversee and manage the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE).

In addition to drawing investments and creating job opportunities for Sarawakians, RECODA is also entrusted by the Sarawak government since 2017 to implement development projects in the regions overseen by its three development agencies with funds totalling RM4.5 billion.