The outlook for the oil and gas sector in Sarawak will very soon closely resemble that of Sarawak’s timber industry at present, which is quite bleak. Sarawak’s timber resources are managed by Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (SITDC) whose strategy is to basically cut down as much forests as possible to extract the most timber in the shortest possible time. However, without any replanting scheme in place it is no wonder that timber exports are dropping. Exports declined a significant 23.5% from RM1.7 billion in the first quarter of 2017 to RM1.3 billion in the first quarter of 2018. The decline is expected to be steady until there is nothing left to cut down.
Sarawak’s narrow focus on simply felling the trees and selling the logs to overseas markets does not augur well for how the state will manage its crude oil reserves. Sarawak’s oil and gas reserves are still plentiful thanks to prudent measures to maintain a steady output – up till now. As of end 2015, Sarawak possessed 28.7% of known national oil reserves and accounted for 29.4% of national production. As for gas, Sarawak accounted for 52.7% of the country’s known reserves and approximately 70% of national production.
This may all change as Sarawak sets to ramp up production to feed the state coffers for “development projects.”
Petros which has been entrusted with Sarawak’s oil and gas resources is modeled on many other state government entities like the SITDC.
SITDC functions more as a business extension of the government. Its Chairman, Awang Tengah is Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister. He presides over a management board which is populated by more junior ministers and senior civil servants in the state government machinery who are more likely to simply take orders from him. Without any expertise in forestry management, Sarawak’s second in command and his yes men are more than likely to depend on timber industry players for direction.
This is typical of the Barisan Nasional crony and elite politics-economy that have emasculated the Sarawak people for decades!
The scenario is being played out with Petros, the oil and gas sector’s version of the SITDC. Petros’ Chairman is Hamid Bugo, the former Sarawak State Secretary. Another Petros board member is Zuraimi bin Haji Sabki who is the director of the Sarawak Public Works Department. Petros is barely 18 months old and does not have a track record of delivering the goods and have to depend greatly on its partners Brooke Dockyard and Engineering Works Corporation and Upland Resources (which is another story altogether).
Brooke is a government statutory body providing fabrication and commissioning of offshore drilling platforms, modules, and subsea templates, and Upland Resource is an upstream oil & gas company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and which only recently has sunk its roots in Sarawak.
Brooke is headed by its Chairman, Abang Haji Abdul Karim who is the brother of Abang Johari the Chief Minister and is also President of the Sarawak Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).
Upland Resources has recently appointed Bolhassan Di as its Non-Executive Chairman. Bolhassan Di was an elected member of the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly from 1987 to 2011 and his last position in government was Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Communication under Taib Mahmud’s administration.
He replaced Norza Zakaria (Najib and Rosmah crony and BAM and OCM president) in July 2018 right after Brooke and Upland signed an MOU to jointly assess, explore for and develop hydrocarbons in Sarawak, Malaysia. Norza is the largest shareholder in Upland. He gave up the chairmanship due to “conflicts with his role as newly appointed OCM chairman” during Najib’s last days. Is it also because Uplands will not get any contracts if they have a BN strongman and close confidant of Najib and Rosmah as chairman?
Whereas most state oil entities stay away from recruiting senior management from the public sector to protect its independence, Petros, Brooke and Upland are headed by ex-politicians and civil servants. Abang Jo is also proven to be a politician more than statesman by claiming Petros is ready to run the state’s Oil & Gas industry – but really depends on external partners for strategic direction and execution. GPS will just collect ‘rent’ – as in previous BN government.
The elegant silence of Petros as to its plans for the future have even prompted die hard Petronas critic, Lina Soo who heads civil society Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations (SAPA) to accuse Petros of being a shadowy organisation engaged in backroom deals behind closed doors and not keeping Sarawakians informed or even compromising their interests. Sarawakians Slams Sarawakians
Such organisations like Petros have little say in the way the Sarawak state government manages its affairs which is in the hands of a small chosen few at the very top. Keeping to the playbook, Petros, Brooke and Upland will provide consistency to how Sarawak manages its resources, until sometime in the very near future when the wells and pipes run dry.