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Taking KK forward
Published on: Sunday, May 21, 2017

By Datuk John Lo
I THANK DBKK for inviting me to attend the workshop for the above on 26 April 2017.

I hope DBKK will permit me, as a layman and concerned resident of KK, to contribute some ideas on this very important subject for our capital city.

Methodology. I like to suggest for a change of methodology. In the workshop, the consultants posed some problems of KK to the participants then asked them to come up with solutions. This is like the doctor telling the patient that he [patient] is unwell and then ask him [patient] to prescribe medicine for himself. A better way would be for the consultants, being experts in competitiveness, to conduct an in-depth research, produce empirical facts and numbers on KK’s competitiveness problem and provide the solutions. To make the study meaningful, the final report should have well thought out solutions and direction, not just impressions.

Participants. With due respect, the participants were mostly junior government officials. Most notably absent are major relevant stakeholders like businessmen/chambers of commerce, professionals/planners, service providers especially internet companies, hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, tourism companies, private hospitals, etc.

Their absence is no fault of DBKK. These people only know how to complain but won’t contribute – just like fighting for the abolishment of the Cabotage Policy.

Below are some points which have been superficially dealt with or have been left out altogether in the workshop and which I hope will be included so that they will make the report more complete. I am saying this without knowing the terms of reference or scope for this consultancy.

Definition of competitiveness in the context of KK. Defining competition in context of KK is critical for this study so that there is direction and clarity. After defining it, the objectives of this competitiveness can be established.

Objectives of enhanced competitiveness of DBKK. I would recommend the following objectives for DBKK’s consideration.

[a] KK to become the showcase regional economic leader, the international city, the tourism city [including medical tourism], the gateway to BIM-EAGA.

[b] To increase KK’s contribution to Sabah’s GDP.

[c] To increase the GDP per capita of all KK residents.

[d] To enhance quality of life for all KK residents.

[e] To generate meaningful new employment for KK residents.

KK’S competitiveness current status. No one really knows the exact competitiveness status of KK unless the experts can come up with a realistic assessment. With that, we can establish our present strengths and weakness. We must know this in order for us to move forward in a meaningful manner. From here, we can establish our present realistic comparative advantages and formulate the platform on which to build our competitive future.

Competitiveness in what aspect? Obviously, a young and small city like KK cannot hope to be competitive in anything and everything.

Selectiveness and focus are sensible as DBKK does not have the financial and human resources to tackle too many fronts. Even Singapore, which is one of the most competitive and best organized cities in the world, has chosen tourism, medical tourism and off-shore financial services as her main thrusts in the competitiveness race.

Being able to focus correctly, Singapore has become a world class city and its residents enjoying one of the highest capita incomes in the world. KK can likewise provide high income for its residents by focusing on what we can do best.

It, internet service and compeititveness for KK. KK must embrace the digital age with the fullest energy.

All KK’s future economic activities, down to the humble coffee shops, need to and must be driven by IT and internet so that we can reach out to the greatest number of people in the borderless world. To achieve this, there must be a change, a total, thorough revamp in our thinking. This must be done with utmost urgency.

Because of the lack of competition among internet providers, access to the internet is very expensive and service is poor. This must be rectified soonest as the whole world is already into “instant information”, “instant service”, “shorter product life span” and “user friendly”. We must have these from A to Z in our system.

The UNIFI is unreliable, ancient with the speed of an old man compared to those in other competitive cities.

For starter, there should be a plan to wire whole of KK. This will advance competitiveness tremendously.

If allowed to persist, this expensive and poor internet service will be the greatest hindrance to our economic progress. There is no doubt that this has greatly hampered Government’s efforts to bring progress to the people.

Cost competitiveness of KK. The participants have mentioned many platitude problems. To me one of the major consideration is cost.

KK cannot and must not price itself out of competition. KK is not cost effective in many aspects and is in fact expensive in food, transport and absence of organized public transport, power, water, internet, port charges and strangulations by the Cabotage Policy.

Though our labour cost is not high but our productivity, for a variety of reasons, is really very far behind.

There are many ways of looking at cost. There is the cost as in dollars and cents, real cost, time cost, communication and hidden cost. These must be addressed. Only after we have addressed all these types of cost will we know KK’s competitiveness. A good case in point is everything is expensive in Singapore.

Why is it that many multi-national companies still favour Singapore over KL for their regional offices or HQ?

Who are our competitors? Thanks to Datuk Musa’s business friendly approach all these years and Halajutu, KK is head and shoulder above all other cities in whole of Borneo [including Kalimantan] and Southern Philippines.

But some cities in Kalimantan are aggressively catching up.

KK cannot compete beyond this region for the time being. We must entrench and strengthen our leadership position in this region first. But if we pursue and persist in our chosen path, who knows, we can compete with the likes of Singapore, KL and HK in our own way one day.

What do we need to do to achieve the desired competivenss? Foremost, the KK residents will need to have a mental revolution for we are too relaxed in many things.

We must learn to keep proper time. We must cultivate an inherent sense of wanting to be better and to be competitive. We must strive to be achievers in things that we want to do. We must learn to be proud of our achievements. Above all, we must criticize less and contribute more.

KK residents must be ready for change, change for the better and for the new emerging world.

We must engage the young generation to embrace competition and support them in any way possible.

What new competitiveness business can KK create? When we have the right attitude, we can look for new businesses and/or start new economic activities.

The global economy is forever evolving and is moving fast in this technological world.

There are always plenty to do in this borderless world if we are ready and willing to pursue our dreams.

Policies and implementation. Proceeding to chase after a more competitive KK can be possible only with the strong support of the State and Federal Governments. This support must come in the form of proactive and positive policies.

Right now, we should undertake a thorough review of government policies and implementation that have become hurdles to competitiveness and suggest for appropriate ones to be adopted.

Increasing competitiveness will mean reordering of priorities and introducing new polices.

There will be major restructuring of economic activities over a period of time. Some will benefit and some will suffer set-backs. The question is how to assist KK residents to cushion and minimise the effects of their set-backs.

Substainable pursuit of competitiveness by DBKK The first consideration is how will DBKK drive our quest to increase competitiveness, given its very limited financial and expertise resources.

We cannot afford to have a one time “knee jerk” attempt and then it is all forgotten.

Gaining competitiveness is a long-term goal. It is obvious that DBKK’S current revenue will not be sufficient for it to embark on this ambition. It needs to tighten up present collection and look for new sources.

To stay competitive in the long haul, KK must have a group of residents who will embrace competition and an avenue to foster constant competitiveness renewal.

Above all, there must be a high level of “Esprit de corps” between relevant government officials especially the Mayor like Datuk Yeo Boon Hai and private sector to drive it. Without these 2 elements, we might as well kiss the whole thing good bye.

Musa vision and DBKK’S competitiveness. These 2 things are inseparable and must be considered together always for a few important reasons.

Working within the Musa Vison is logical for it has already provided the required framework.

In fact, there are many opportunities for DBKK to act in complementary role to the Musa Vision in our pursuit of competitiveness.

In Musa Vision, KK is the gateway for tourism [including new products like medical tourism and conventions], onshore oil and gas exploration, downstream value-add downstream, property development, development of aviation and marine hubs, regional business centre.

When in full consonant with the Musa Vision, the competitive momentum created will generate new type of businesses and innovative ideas I must admit that I don’t have answers to all the above and other points.

That is why we have the consultants. It is hoped they, after “due diligence research”, can come up with a competitive road map for KK.

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