The challenges of resetting Sabah’s economy.
Hajiji has begun the complex task of resetting Sabah’s economic fundamentals in 2021.
All adult Sabahans know that Sabah’s economy has been in bad shape for years. But few people realize that he has stage 3 cancer, which is close to terminal. Sabah’s economy needs a complete overhaul from the ground up.
Resetting Sabah’s economy is a daunting task, involving massive economic restructuring, realignment of ownership and major macro/micro policy changes. Sabah has, over the past 40 years, lost control of all major economic sectors such as palm oil plantations, tourism products, oil and gas, automobile distribution, logistics, finance and manufacturing. .
This loss has been compounded by dilapidated infrastructure such as substandard water, roads, electricity, sewage, public transport and WIFI.
Mostly there are also small businesses, i.e. workshops, cafes, even hawker stalls. To sum up all the economic mess, Sabah has the highest poverty rate, lowest household income, highest unemployment including unemployed graduates and third world infrastructure. Ignored by many, the Sabahans were on the verge of being totally disenfranchised economically. Righting the biggest challenge is the inequitable fiscal relationship between the federal government and Sabah.
These economic problems and many others require long-term solutions, including major policy realignments and rational political courage. Expecting a quick result is unrealistic.
Achievements in 2021.
– Reset Sabah’s political mindset.
Sabah’s economic solutions are about resetting some basic political mindset first.
To this end, Hajiji took an innovative political stance to unify Sabah:-[a] “CM for All Sabahans” is Hajiji’s first major political initiative as CM. This step-inclusive policy is the most significant and contrasts sharply with the Malaysian policy of racial and religious bigotry. [b] In addition, Hajiji created a more conducive political environment by reaching out to opposition YBs with the allocation of RM2 million for constituency development. Maybe more in the 2023 budget. This is a pioneering first in Malaysia that Prime Minister Ismail emulated. [c] Hajiji’s other important initiative was to encourage all YBs to transform themselves into constituency economic leaders, urging them to take charge of the economic development of their constituencies. [d] Hajiji flatly rejected PAS’s intention to introduce legislation that would restrict other religions. [e] More importantly, Hajiji has given the economic interests of the Sabahans his top priority, especially in job creation under the “Sabahans First Policy”.
These are important political factors as they create inclusiveness, social cohesion and unity among Sabahan, which are essential for economic development.
– Hajiji’s innovative approach to policy-based economic development.
Hajiji introduced this extremely important innovative policy, the importance of which will change the pattern and accelerate the pace of economic development in Sabah.
Testifying to the effectiveness of its supportive policies, Sabah has already risen to 3rd position among Malaysian states in attracting investment with RM4.4 billion in 2021. Hajiji’s philosophy is simply: effective can accelerate, accelerate economic progress, attract investment. and create more jobs”.
Good examples are Singapore and China which started out with few funds but grew rapidly thanks to good economic policies. The most famous of this approach are Deng Xiao Ping’s 2 simple statements of principle [a] “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice” and “It’s glorious to be rich”.
– Tons of work after the constitutional amendments to MA63.
These amendments are the most significant developments, representing years of struggle for recognition of Sabah’s rights that have either been forced to give up or voluntarily given up.
Finally, Sabah’s status as a full partner was legally restored. From a constitutional point of view, these amendments appear good at first sight. Will they restore the legitimate financial situation of Sabah, which is not yet visible in the financial relations between the federal government and Sabah?
The federal government has been providing “unfair allocations” to Sabah since 1963. This inequity must be corrected quickly.
For Sabah to maximize the benefits of MA63, Sabah must have competent and credible representatives in important federal organizations, for example, the board of directors of Petronas.
Hajiji is making steady progress in this most difficult business in 2021. A lot of hard work awaits him in 2022. With the political support and unity of the Sabahans, he can succeed.
– Reset Federal/Sabah economic relations.
It’s common knowledge now. Suffice to say that the commercial collaboration agreement with Petrona has been signed. The CCA is clearly a landmark achievement of Hajiji. It contains many aspects that will give opportunities to Sabahans in the oil and gas industry.
Equally important is the completion and launch of the gas master plan between the government of Sabah and Petronas on January 5, 2022. It is unimaginable that these 2 deals that have eluded Sabah for over 30 years have now been concluded in one year and over under Hajiji.
High seas licensing authority was also returned to Sabah.
Just to remember, there are many economic areas, outside of petrol/gas that need to be reviewed and reset. Some examples are investment promotion, APs for exports and conducting many types of business, administrative “inconvenience” to overcome.
– GLC governance reset.
Hajiji has already announced that the management of the GLCs, which number more than 230, will be reorganized to comply with good governance. A special committee has been set up for this purpose within the DSP Masidi.
Most GLCs suffered losses or underperformed, Masidi has a tough job to do in 2022.
– Create new industries, move up the value chain, more jobs.
Hajiji’s top priority vis-à-vis SEAC is job creation for the Sabahans.[a] To this end, a new coconut industry is already underway. Others in the pipeline are [b] Mining with down-steam. Projected job creation is 30,000. [c] PTI [Industrial Tree Plantations] with downstream creation of 80,000 skilled and unskilled jobs and a contribution of over RM11 billion to GDP for Sabah. Several ITP companies currently in operation have more than 90% Sabahan employees at all levels. ITP will reduce the pressure to harvest logs from the natural forest. Datuk Fred Kugan is finalizing a comprehensive ITP policy recommendation with SEAC that will give Sabah a new sustainable timber industry. [d] Green energy and associated hydrogen industries using part of Sabah’s 5 million metric tons CPO are under negotiation. [e] Production of food and fruit for domestic consumption and export. The obvious is the durians for the Chinese market [f] Talks are underway for a number of new investments.
– The return of Sabah’s economic optimism.
In his own calm and steady demeanor, Hajiji injected a reinvigorated sense of economic optimism beneath his SMJ. [Sabah Maju Jaya] vision of inclusiveness, openness and pragmatic economic policies. Although his economic initiative will take time to produce full results, a new mood of optimism is already replacing years of pessimism. This newfound confidence in Sabah’s future is awakening among some prominent Sabahans who have come forward to serve the cause of Sabah’s advancement. All of them have NO political affiliation or political program. They are: Tan Sri David Chu, President of SEAC.  Tan Sri Andrew Liew, President of the United Chinese Chambers of Commerce in Sabah.
ADVERTISING Tan Sri TC Goh, Chairman of Hauzong,  Tan Sri David Wong, recently retired Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Roger Chin, President of SLS and some prominent lawyers.  Datuk Seri Lim Haw Kuang, a prominent corporate personality and former chairman of Shell companies in China and some senior oil/gas executives from Sabahan  Datuk Ismail Adullah, former director of UPEN, now CEO of TAED. He and his team are finalizing the revision of the TAED master plan.  Datuk Adeline Leong, President of IDS.  Datuk Pengiran Hassanel, President and Datuk Vincent Pung, MD of SDB respectively.  Datuk Sam Manan, former CCF, now deputy director of YS and adviser to the CM on forestry.  Professor Datuk Kasim, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting at UMS.
Even more encouraging, some young Sabahans are beginning to share this dawn of trust with these eminent Sabahans. A few have returned or plan to return from abroad to seek their economic future in their home country. This is a historic reversal of the brain drain in favor of Sabah which, although a little now, will gain momentum in 2022 and beyond.
Hopes in 2022.
– 2022 will see many work continuations from 2021. I am confident that Hajiji, in his efforts to reset Sabah’s economy, will introduce additional economic policy initiatives, launch more projects to benefit Sabahans in 2022. Before all, hopefully, some of these can be examined:[a] Sabah’s financial institutions like SDB will realign and direct their lending priorities towards the commercial/economic development of Sabah. [b] Land reforms that will create many more bumiputra millionaires in business and accelerate economic growth. [c] Encourage the cultivation of high-value crops for export and increase food production for domestic consumption, [d] control the current galloping inflation. [e] improve food security. [f] More industrial land at competitive prices compared to W Malaysia and regionally. Offer preferential pricing to Sabahan investors under the Sabahan First policy. [g] Start solving infrastructure problems in earnest.
Focus on economic solutions to make the economic reset a reality.
– Hope in itself is only a feeling. But there is real hope for significant and faster economic progress for Sabah if all Sabahans, especially political leaders [please reduce politicking]can contribute to Hajiji’s efforts to resuscitate Sabah’s economy.