KUCHING: Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a renewed pledge to further aid the progress of bumiputras. Its fourth and long-serving chairman Datuk Talib Zulpilip said the statutory body's long-term emphasis remained on helping bumiputras to progress further.
This, he said, would include providing education and training from kindergarten level right up to offering loans to emerging entrepreneurs. "The development of local entrepreneurs is not an easy task. It entails changing the mindset of the people. We have continued our commitment to promoting and pursuing the agenda of ensuring more bumiputra participation in commerce and industry," Talib, who is also Assistant Tourism Minister, said on Saturday.
SEDC's efforts towards this goal would begin small and include rural commerce, he said. For example, that the purchase of handicrafts made in villages and longhouses had long been featured in SEDC-managed hotels and malls. "Even during golf competitions, we make sure prizes and awards include locally crafted memorabilia - thereby, introducing our heritage to those in the high-end segment. But to change the mindset and create long-term success, Talib said inculcating a sense of responsibility was key.
"A critical area where we have made some breakthrough is in the collection of long outstanding loans and rentals. We have formed a Debt Recovery Action Committee." Between 2004 and December last year, the committee has recovered RM21.7mi1, he highlighted. "People just have- to learn to pay back debts. This is part of good cor-porate governance. Even if it is just RM500, a loan is (still) a loan. This move does not make SEDC popular, but we have to do it."
The celebratory dinner held at SEDC's Riverside Majestic Hotel was attended by about 1,000 people. The guest of honour, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, praised SEDC for having done "quite well". "SEDC is defined by its varied business engagements. When it first began, it was 'forced' to do various things that the state government could not do. SEDC had to take on projects that were not easily fitted into any one single government department," Taib said.
"It had to set up hotels and also attractions like the Sarawak Cultural Village. It had to build parks like the Kuching Waterfront. It had to, at the time, begin ventures that those in the private sector were not keen in. Its variety meant SEDC had no real core businesses but rather, a social economic development as a whole." The Chief Minister in his speech highlighted the "enthusiastic" contributions of Datuk Seri Mohd Effendi Norwawi, who helmed the organisation between 1981 and 1994.
"Even though he had political ambitions, I kept him (at SEDC) for a long time. He injected the organisa-tion with inspiration." SEDC was set up on March 1, 1972 under the SEDC Ordinance. Prior to 1972, it was known as the Sarawak Development Finance Corporation, working under the state government's Bumiputra Commercial and Industrial Policy.
Sunday Star Sarawak - 27 May 2012