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Sabah progressing without fuss
Published on: Friday, May 20, 2022
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PETALING JAYA: The Sabah Government has been quietly bringing development to the people and enhancing their living standards and wellbeing without much fanfare.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and Movement Control Orders, the Sabah Government managed to achieve a record in revenue earned: RM4.912 billion in 2021, the highest for the State since the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

With Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor at the helm, Sabah is on a roll and the State hopes to top its 2021 economic performance this year and in 2023.

Plans and projects are progressing at speed following Hajiji’s introduction of the Halatuju Sabah Maju Jaya initiative, and civil servants have been given “clear and loud warnings” at meetings chaired by Hajiji that they should avoid behaving like “Little Napoleons” in unnecessarily delaying development projects.

Foreign investment has been on the rise, and Hajiji’s leadership style is a major draw for foreign investors.

A business insider said “Hajiji has established a reputation for not suffering fools, or the inefficiencies of certain impractical and decades-old practices that hinder efficient implementation of policies.

Hajiji prefers to talk less and let his efforts to boost the economy and improve the wellbeing of the people speak for itself.

“He is known to be fair and pragmatic and he has reprimanded those who fail to prioritise the people’s welfare and the delivery system and this has instilled confidence in both domestic and foreign investors. His clean, scandal-free image is also a major boost.”

Hajiji, who became Sabah’s 16th Chief Minister on Sept 29, 2020, set in motion various strategies that have begun to bear fruit.

One indicator of his success is the dramatic leap in foreign investment.

In the first half of 2021, Sabah attracted RM4.4 billion in foreign investment, the 3rd biggest amount after Kedah and Selangor, and that while the nation was still in the grip of Covid-19.

This year, Sabah expects to attract FDI of about RM25 billion.

The introduction of the Halatuju Sabah Maju Jaya initiative is another big factor for the positive outlook. The development plan framework has three main pillars tailored for the present socio-economic climate in Sabah:

l Economic growth focused on three key areas in Sabah: agriculture, industrialisation and tourism;

l Human resource development and people’s wellbeing; and

l Infrastructure network and green sustainability.

Among the projects taking off are a RM10 billion copper foil manufacturing plant by South Korea’s SK Nexilis, the RM7 billion Lok Kawi Resort City Development project and an integrated coconut processing plant.

A business observer noted that Hajiji’s style of working quietly without much fuss or fanfare had been a plus point in speeding up Sabah’s development.

In March, Hajiji said several initiatives and development projects under the Halatuju Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) initiative had been started, with the hope that “all the ministries and government departments will ensure that the halatuju will be successful. 

“The SMJ is a guideline for us to develop Sabah and its rakyat.”

He said initiatives implemented included infrastructure improvements, entrepreneurial capacity building, sustainable exploration of resources, increased investment and the participation of local companies in strategic sub-sectors.

Hajiji said the success of the State Government in signing the Commercial Cooperation Agreement (CCA) with Petronas on Dec 7, 2021 would help increase the meaningful participation of state and local companies in the oil and gas industry.

“Through the CCA, Sabah will have a greater voice, participation and revenue sharing in our oil and gas industry. Less than a month from the date the CCA was signed, we have been able to see the results with the launch of the Sabah Gas Master Plan on Jan 4, 2022.”

In order to expand the industrial sector in the State, Hajiji has established a cohesive taskforce across civil service agencies and departments to provide support and cut through bureaucratic red tape so that the implementation of projects that have been agreed upon can be speeded up.

The State Government expects to expand job opportunities and lift more Sabahans out of poverty through the various projects under the SMJ initiative.

The Lok Kawi Resort City development project is expected to create more than 5,000 jobs for Sabahans. Hajiji envisages that through such tourism projects Sabah would become the top Southeast Asian destination and outdo neighbours such as Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

The State Government intends to make use of what it can offer – the sea, mountains and rainforests, and a rich diversity of wildlife – to turn Sabah into an eco-tourist’s dream.

Hajiji has also told Sabahans to expect the “landscape and face of Kota Kinabalu” to change in the future with the implementation of various development projects.

This includes the Waterfront, Star City, The Shore, Sadong Jaya, Coral Bay, Tanjung Aru Eco Development, Jesselton Quay Central, Harbour City Pavillion, Jesselton101 and the Botanical Garden.

A business leader said Hajiji’s performance was “not bad for someone who was seen by sceptics to be a leader who was not economics-savvy or business-minded like previous chief ministers.”

Hajiji entered politics in 1990 and was elected to the Sulaman state seat on an Usno ticket. He has been representing Sulaman in the state assembly ever since.

Following Usno’s dissolution, he joined Umno in 1994 and than Bersatu in 2018. He was state minister for housing and local government from 2004 to 2018. Hajiji is now Gabungan Rakyat Sabah chairman.

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