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New K'mantan border town to ease human-cargo traffic
Published on: Sunday, June 18, 2017

AT least one new border town near Serudong will be opened soon in Sabah's east coast to ease movement of people and goods between Sabah and the new Indonesian province of North Kalimantan, which is roughly the size of Sabah.

North Kalimantan was created by a presidential decree in 2012 to speed up development and part of its border is shared by Sarawak and Sabah (Tawau). It was previously the northern part of East Kalimantan.

Following the "split" East Kalimantan, which is slightly bigger than Sabah, remained as Kalimantan Timor (east).

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the border town will have road connection, something that is still missing, with the purpose of increasing trade volume, including barter trade.

"Currently, barter trade is done through ships and this has caused various security concerns.

However, if we open a new border town which is connected by roads, we can have better control of the incoming and outgoing of people and goods.

"The people and goods will have to go through Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) checks like normal border checkpoints," he said.

He has presented the proposal to the State Government and so far, the response has been good although detailed study was needed.

A preliminary report on how Sabah's economy can be integrated with Kalimantan and the Southern Philippines has been submitted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) with the complete report expected within a month or two.

"The preliminary report showed good numbers. It proposed that Tawau port be used to serve the region.

For Sabah to progress, we have to accept that we cannot confine ourselves to the domestic economy only.

"Sabah is well-positioned geographically and vessels from New Zealand, Australia and other southern countries heading to the Far East will pass through Sabah's east coast. If we can develop bunker services for these ships, I believe it could become an exciting industry for Sabah," he said.

Nevertheless, he believed that prior to that, Sabah needs to look at the ready opportunity at hand, namely the potentials of Bimp-Eaga and the necessities for Sabah to integrate its economy with those in the Bimp-Eaga region.

Rahman said Kalimantan's rich natural resources would complement Sabah's growing industries perfectly as the State is craving for raw materials and in return, could offer Kalimantan more sophisticated infrastructure such as medical tourism. Unfortunately, he said Sabah, Kalimantan and the Philippines do not have strong economic integration.

"Maybe because of the past issues such as politics, the question of legacy... we have so many uneasy feelings because of our history. But we must put all those behind us. There are more jobs in Kalimantan now, thus the influx of foreign workers from Indonesia may be a thing of the past soon.

"As far as I am concerned, Sabah must think about the regional economy so that we can empower our economy," he said.

The proposal, he said had received positive response from the provinces in Kalimantan but stressed that there is an urgent need for better relations and bridge building between leaders of both regions.

"I will go to Kalimantan to strengthen this economic relation. This is not between Malaysia and Indonesia but Sabah and Kalimantan. I think it would be easier to do that because of the smaller scope involved," he said. - Tracy Patrick

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