Sabah shortchanged for too long
Published on: Sunday, November 14, 2021
By: Datuk John Lo
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Sabah’s paltry income slows down economic recovery. During my recent visit to several places in west Malaysia, realisation has dawned on me that economic recovery in west Malaysia is outpacing Sabah’s by leaps and bounds. The gap of recovery will be very uneven mainly because Sabah lacks income parity with west Malaysia. Sabah’s disposal income is a paltry.

Debate until the cows come home. Fact remains that Sabah is zillion years behind west Malaysia in all aspects of economic development.

Meaning of Sabah’s equal partnership/Malaysian Family in 12th Malaysian Plan.

For goodness’ sake, Sabahans must learn immediately not to believe west Malaysian politicians’ slick tongues nor is there a need for us to bow heads in gratitude for federal funds. We have been short changed for too long. This will happen in budget 2022. If our politicians don’t wake up to reality, the same will be repeated throughout the 5 years in 12th Malaysian Plan. We cannot blame anyone except ourselves for not fighting for an equitable funding for the last 5 years. The west Malaysian politicians have fought and fortified their positions against us. Our leaders have been sleeping for many decades. Time to wake up. Unless we act quickly, Sabah’s position, irrespective of whatever the political rhetoric is, is quite meaningless in this equal partnership/Malaysian Family in 12th Family Plan.

Reality is even within a family, those fighting hardest, working smartest are the winners. The tardy, sleepy Joes like Sabah politicians, will be left behind. 

Sabah’s position in some 12th Malaysian Plan milestones.

Last week, I have delved into some milestones in Budget 2020. May I now do so with the 2021-2o25 12th Malaysian Plan. Probably too late for Sabah to do much for Budget 2022. We better start planning to fight for equitable fundings for the remaining 4 years.

In no particular order, here are some 12th Malaysian Plan milestones for Sabahan politicians to think about.

Milestone 1: Federal Govt allocates RM400b for projects under 12MP.

The percentage of allocation of this RM400b for Sabah will tell us the quality/reality of these much-touted equal partnership and Malaysian Family. Is Sabah an equal partner, a junior partner, no partner at all, no better than a poor cousin state?

Malaysia’s allocation for projects is quite small because of excessive recurrent expenditures, especially for civil service salaries. Sabah must fight for our equitable portion of this amount.

Milestone 2: Govt spent RM248.5b for development under 11MP.

Please review our position in the previous plan. Lessons to be learned. Has Sabah received justice?

Milestone 3: GDP growth expected to average 4.5pc to 5.5pc between 2021 and 2025.

Remember this is national GDP, not Sabah’s GDP. We should calculate what is this national GDP mean for Sabah’s equal partnership. Unless we do so, we will be groping in the dark when negotiating with the Federal Government. We have fumbled in the past, got ourselves a really bad bargain. Let us open our eyes henceforth. 

Milestone 4: Average household income targeted to reach RM10,000 by 2025

This is critical because it will determine the amount of $$$$ in our pocket, our disposable income. How much of this national GDP should come to Sabah for us to catch up with W Malaysia? Better think through this one!

Milestone 5: Economic growth gap to be reduced between central region and Sabah and Sarawak.

This is a historical first recognition of this economic growth gap. First, establish the size of this gap which can be very huge as Sabah has been neglected for 50 years. Second, get rid of the idea that west Malaysia is the central region. It is not. In the coming constitutional amendment, Sabah, Sarawak and west Malaysia are territories. Thirdly, Sabahan political leaders must not be dictated to on how to close this economic gap by west Malaysians. They must know what exactly they want and how to go about it. If they fail to do these 2 points, we will be led by the nose again for next 50 years. 

Milestone 6: Govt vows to reduce bureaucracy and build reliable infrastructure and ecosystem to attract quality foreign investments.

This is where Sabahan politicians must really put their feet down. Ignore and neglect the investment aspects of the 12th Malaysia Plan means 5 years gone for good. The chance of getting an equitable portion of investment in 13th Malaysia Plan will be as good as gone too, meaning 1 generation of Sabahans will be condemned to poverty from 2021 to 2030.

First and foremost, regain Sabah’s control of Sabah’s economy and oil/gas.

Sabahan leaders’ mindset must improve, be prepared to fight the ultimate battle for Sabah’s economic interest. This is for all politicians irrespective of party affiliations.

Milestone 7: Govt to develop ecosystem to support gig economy.

When the Federal Government says this, it means west Malaysia. No attention, allocation or provision develop this gig economy for Sabah. West Malaysia’s gig economy is quite well developed by international standard. Remember their multimedia super corridor since 1996. Sabah has only wooden corridor!

Milestone 8: Growth of several strategic and high-impact industries, namely E&E, global aerospace services, halal, creative, tourism, biomass and smart agriculture, will be boosted.

Unless Sabah politicians can do their homework well and lobby hard, Sabah is unlikely to receive benefit in these critical future industries.

Milestone 9: Special facilitation fund for infrastructure projects will be given under Public-Private Partnership 3.0 model, undertaken via requests for proposal (RFPs), with projects.

Not asking anything more than the completion of Pan Borneo within 12th Malaysia Plan which is unlikely. Pray hard for its completion in 13th Malaysia Plan. Projects in Sabah seem to move in mysteriously snail pace.

Appeal to Sabah political leaders.

For better or for worse, the 12th Malaysia Plan will impact our lives till 2025 and beyond. I have selected only 9 milestones to highlight Sabah’s pitiful position. There are plenty more that Sabah politicians need to pay attention. Critically important is for our political leaders to study and understand all the economic milestones in the 12th Malaysia plan so that they can unite to fight for an equitable share of funds for the sake of Sabah effectively.

I appeal to our political leaders to do this as Sabah’s future economic position will depend on it. If we fail to fight for an equitable distribution of funds in the 12th Malaysia Plan, Sabah will be left further behind. 

Sabah will become the poor partner, not an equal partner in Malaysia, Sabahans will sink to the lowest caste, “the untouchables” within the Malaysian Family.

All government and opposition politicians are duty to fight for equitable funding in the 12th Malaysia Plan. 

If Sabah cannot secure justice in funding in 12th Malaysia Plan, all Sabahan politicians have failed. Yes, I mean all. The guiltiest ones are those Finger-Pointing politicians. They are just narcissistic blame shifting.

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