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For centuries, the natives of Sarawak were hunter-gatherers but they also farmed vast tracts of land to grow rice by “slash and burn” shifting cultivation. Encouraged by the Brookes, natives came from as far as the Dutch Borneo (Kalimantan Indonesia) to clear the large tracts of virgin forests to open up inaccessible areas as the State prepared to modernize. With the formation of Malaysia, the government pursued a policy to develop native land to improve the standard of living of the people while instituting a just society.

Sarawak’s economic structure is largely export-oriented and primary commodities dominated. The primary sectors (i.e., mining, agriculture, and forestry) make up about 40% of the State's total real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), followed by the secondary sector (i.e., manufacturing and construction) with about slightly more than 30% of total real GDP.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and petroleum has been the mainstay of the State's economy for decades. One of the world's largest exporters of tropical hardwood timber, the State government has imposed strict log-production quotas over the recent years to ensure sustainable forestry management. Currently Sarawak produces approximately nine to ten million cubic meters of logs annually.

Sarawak also has large tracts of land suitable for commercial agricultural development. Approximately 32% of the state's total land area have been identified as suitable agricultural land. But less than nine percent of this is planted with productive permanent crops. The main commercial crops are oil palm, sago, and pepper. Over the last 20 years, the government has gradually introduced large-scale plantation agriculture by encouraging joint-ventures with the government and corporations.

During the 1980s the State started diversifying its economy from aquaculture to industry. Today, manufacturing and hi-tech industries now play a significant role in shaping the economic expansion of Sarawak.

Sarawak’s global economic environment is expected to remain robust and dynamic right up to the next decade, with both the industrial and developing countries anticipated to maintain sustainable growth. Global trade is predicted to expand by about 8%. This continuing favorable external outlook should keep the high growth momentum of the nation's economy at a steady and stable level as Sarawak increases its pace to become a developed state by the year 2020.

Sarawak has identified four sectors as key sources of growth:

  • manufacturing
  • commercial agriculture
  • construction
  • services sectors

The availability of vast competitively priced land and rich reserves of natural resources has made Sarawak an attractive choice for manufacturing operations among investors.

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