More achievements than expected under Hajiji
Published on: Sunday, January 09, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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Deep sea fishing licence approvals returned to Sabah: Never achieved under previous CMs (left pic).
2021 is over. Much already done to reset Sabah’s economy, lots more to do to put Sabah back to long term stable economic growth after decades in limbo in 2022.

Challenges in resetting Sabah’s economy.

Hajiji has started the complex task of resetting Sabah’s economic fundamentals in 2021.

All adult Sabahans know Sabah’s economy has been in a bad shape for years. But not many realise it is suffering from 3rd stage, near to terminal cancer. The Sabah economy needs a complete make over from A to Z.

Resetting Sabah’s economy is a humongous task, involving massive economic restructuring, realignment of ownership and major macro/micro policy changes. Sabah has, over last 40 years, lost control of all major economic sectors like oil palm plantations, tourism products, oil and gas, auto distribution, logistics, finance and manufacturing. 

This loss has been compounded by run-down infrastructures like water, roads, power, sewerage, public transport and substandard WIFI. 

Mostly gone/going also are smaller businesses i.e., workshops, coffee shops, even hawker stalls. Putting the whole economic mess in a nutshell, Sabah has the highest poverty rate, lowest household income, highest unemployment, including unemployed graduates and 3rd world infrastructures. Unrealised by many, Sabahans were about to be economically disenfranchised totally. Righting the biggest challenge is the inequitable Federal/Sabah financial relationship. 

These and many other economic issues require long term solutions, including major policy realignments and rational political courage. Expecting quick result is unrealistic. 

Achievements in 2021.

- Resetting Sabah’s political mindset.

Sabah’s economic solutions lies in resetting some political fundamental mindset first.

Towards this end, Hajiji has adopted an innovative political stance to unify Sabah: -

[a] “CM for all Sabahans” is Hajiji’s first significant political initiative as CM. This inclusive milestone policy is most significant and is in sharp contrast to W Malaysian politics of racial and religious bigotries. 

[b] In addition, Hajiji has created a more conducive political environment by reaching out to opposition YBs with allocation of RM2m for constituency development. May be more in 2023 budget. This is a pioneering first in Malaysia that PM Ismail has emulated. 

[c] Hajiji’s another important initiative was to encourage all YBs to transform themselves as constituency economic leaders, urging them to take charge of the economic development of their constituencies. 

[d] Hajiji has rejected outright PAS’ intention to introduce legislation that would restrict other religions. 

[e] Most importantly, Hajiji has given Sabahans’ economic interest his top priority, especially in the creation of jobs under the “Sabahans First Policy”.

These are significant political factors as they create inclusiveness, social cohesion and unity among Sabahans, which are essential for economic development.

- Hajiji’s innovative approach of policy based economic development.

Hajiji has introduced this hugely important innovative policy, the significance of which will change the pattern and accelerate the pace of Sabah’s economic development. 

Testifying to the effectiveness of his conducive policies, Sabah has already pole-vaulted to  3rd position among Malaysian states in attracting investment with RM4.4 billion in 2021. Hajiji’s philosophy is simply this “Effective policies can expedite, expand economic progress faster, attract investments and create more jobs”. 

Good examples are Singapore and China which had little funds at the beginning but have developed rapidly because of good economic policies. Most famous of this approach are Deng Xiao Ping’s 2 simple policy statements [a] “It does not matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice” and “It is glorious to be rich”.

- Tons of work after constitutional amendments to MA63.

These amendments are most important developments, representing years of fighting for recognition of Sabah’s rights that have been either coerced into giving up or surrendered voluntarily. 

Finally, Sabah’s status as a full partner has been restored legally. Constitutionally, these amendments look good on the surface. Will they restore Sabah’s rightful financial position is yet to be seen in Federal/Sabah financial relationship? 

The Federal Government has been giving “inequitable allocations” to Sabah since 1963. This inequity must be corrected quickly. 

For Sabah to maximise benefits from MA63, Sabah must have knowledgeable and creditable representatives in important Federal organisations, e.g., Petronas Board. 

Hajiji is making steady progress in this most difficult matter in 2021. Much hard work lies ahead in 2022. With political support and unity among Sabahans, he can succeed.

- Resetting Federal/Sabah economic relationship.

It is public knowledge now. Suffice to say that the Collaborative Commercial Agreement with Petrona has been signed. The CCA is clearly a Hajiji milestone achievement. It contains many aspects that will give opportunities to Sabahans in the oil and gas industry. 

Equally important is the completed and launching of the Gas Master Plan between Sabah Government and Petronas on 5th January 2022. Unimaginable that these 2 agreements which have eluded Sabah for more than 30 years have now been concluded within a year plus under Hajiji.

Deep sea licence authority has also been returned to Sabah. 

Lest it be forgotten, there are numerous economic areas, apart from petrol/gas that need to be reviewed and reset. Some examples are promotion of investment, APs for exports and conduct of many types of business, administrative “inconveniences” to be overcome.

- Resetting governance of GLCs.

Hajiji has already announced that management of GLCs, numbering more than 230, will be re-organised to comply with good governance. A special committee has been set up for this purpose under DSP Masidi.

Most of the GLCs have been making losses or under-performing, Masidi has a tough job ahead in 2022.

- Creating new industries, up value chain, more jobs. 

Hajiji’s first priority to SEAC is the creation of jobs for Sabahans. 

[a] Towards this end, a new coconut industry is already underway. Others in the pipe line are 

[b] Mining with down-steam. Expected job creation is 30,000. 

[c] ITP [Industrial Tree Plantations] with down-stream creating 80,000 skilled and unskilled jobs and more than RM11 billion GDP contribution for Sabah. Several ITP companies now in operation have more than 90pc Sabahan staff at all levels. ITP will reduce the pressure of harvesting logs from 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 related hydrogen industries using part of Sabah’s 5 million metric tons of CPO is being negotiated. 

[e] Food and fruits production and for domestic consumption and export. The obvious one is durians for the Chinese market 

[f] Talks are in progress for a number of new investments.

- The return of Sabah’s economic optimism.

In his own quiet, steady demeanour, Hajiji has injected an invigorated sense of economic optimism under his SMJ [Sabah Maju Jaya] vision of inclusiveness, openness and pragmatic economic policies. Though his economic initiative will take time to produce full-blown results, a new ambience of optimism is already replacing years of pessimism. This new confidence in Sabah’s future is awakening among some eminent Sabahans who have come forward to serve the cause of Sabah’s advancement. All of them have NO political affiliation or political agenda. They are: 

[1] Tan Sri David Chu, Chairman of SEAC. 

[2] Tan Sri Andrew Liew, President of Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce. 

[3] Tan Sri T C Goh, President of Hauzong, 

[4] Tan Sri David Wong, recently retired Chief Justice of Sabah and Sarawak, Roger Chin, President of SLS and some prominent lawyers. 

[5] Datuk Seri Lim Haw Kuang, a prominent corporate figure and former Chairman of Shell companies in China and some Sabahan oil/gas senior executives 

[6] Datuk Ismail Adullah, former Director of UPEN, now CEO of TAED. He and his team are finalising the revision of the TAED master plan.

[7] Datuk Adeline Leong, Chairman of IDS. 

[8] Datuk Pengiran Hassanel, Chairman and Datuk Vincent Pung, MD of SDB respectively. 

[9] Datuk Sam Manan, former CCF, now Deputy Director of YS and adviser to CM on forestry. 

[10] Professor Datuk Kasim, Faculty Dean of Business, Economics and Accountancy of UMS.

Most hearteningly, some young Sabahans are beginning to share this dawn of confidence with these eminent Sabahans. A few have returned or are arranging to return from overseas to seek their economic future in their home state. This is a historical brain-drain reversal in Sabah’s favour that will, albeit a trickle now, gather momentum in 2022 and beyond

Hopes in 2022.

- 2022 will see lots of work-continuations from 2021. I am confident that Hajiji will, in his endeavour to reset Sabah’s economy, introduce additional economic policy initiatives, launch more projects to benefit Sabahans in 2022. Foremost of which, I hope, some of these can be looked into: 

[a] Sabah’s financial institutions like SDB will realign and skew their lending priorities towards business/economic development in Sabah. 

[b] Land reforms that will create many more bumiputra millionaires in business and expetite economic growth. 

[c] Encourage cultivation of high value crops for export and increase food production for domestic consumption, 

[d] control the present raging inflation. 

[e] enhance food security. 

[f] More industrial land at competitive prices in comparison with W Malaysia and regionally. Give preferential price to Sabahan investors under Sabahans First Policy. 

[g] Commence solving infrastructure woes in earnest.

Focusing on economic solutions to materialise economic resetting. 

- Hope by itself is just a feeling. But there is real hope to gain meaningful and faster economic progress for Sabah, if all Sabahans, especially political leaders [please reduce politicking], can contribute towards Hajiji’s endeavour to resuscitate Sabah’s economy.

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