Sabah exploring investors on infra development: Phoong
Published on: Sunday, February 05, 2023
By: Sherell Jeffrey
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Sabah exploring investors on infra development: Phoong
Phoong (centre) and Ruddy (3rd left) officiating the opening ceremony of The Gallery with James (3rd right), Micheline (left), Julia (2nd left) and Jason (right).
Kota Kinabalu: The State Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry is exploring ways to attract investors to develop strategic infrastructure in Sabah. 

“Investment and infrastructure should have a mechanism where we will be able to produce a lot of potential for the State,” said Minister Phoong Jin Zhe.

He said this after officiating the opening ceremony of The Gallery, a new industrial estate developed by Crest Megaway Sdn Bhd in Kolombong, Saturday, together with Rural Development Assistant Minister Datuk Seri Ruddy Awah. 

“I believe Sabah requires more industrial hubs. Looking at GDP, manufacturing GDP in Sabah was 8.6 per cent 10 years ago, but it has now dropped to 7.5 per cent,” he said. 

“It shows that no matter how many programmes and plans we have done, from the Sabah Development Corridor 2007-2008 Report to today’s Sabah Maju Jaya Plan, there are still many challenges ahead of us. 

“Sabah is faced with structural core challenges that prevent the State from moving forward. There is a serious lack of infrastructure, making industrial expansion extremely challenging.

“When you travel overseas to attract investors, they constantly question if you have reliable services, such as water and electricity supply. We have to admit that these are our shortcomings.

“I think we need a lot more co-ordination, we need our port to be upgraded, we need stronger activity in port, we need more connectivity to the world, we need more exports, etc.

“I believe these are the difficulties. That is why I think Sabah cannot rely just on tourism and agriculture. 

“We need strong industries. It will be my main task in terms of industrial development, which will necessitate more facilitation when it comes to attracting investors,” he said.

Phoong said he is requesting the Cabinet to look into the possibility of luring investors to engage in Sabah’s infrastructure development as opposed to merely commodities. 

“Sabah has long welcomed investors to invest in commodities such as agriculture, copper foils and solar panels. 

“The progress is not up to par. When foreign investors come to Sabah, they want to invest in something, but because our infrastructure is still waiting for Federal funding to be built, they (investors) are limited in what they can do. 

“Because of this, we need to examine the feasibility and effective mechanism on allowing investors to invest in our infrastructure.”

Phoong said a further obstacle to industrial expansion is land scarcity, in addition to issues with infrastructure, water and electricity availability.

“We no longer have enough land. For the following 10 years, we need to develop a long-term strategy. How much land do we have to accommodate investors? This will be a priority for my Ministry to consider,” he said.

Regarding the renaming of his Ministry, Phoong said it provides local industries and SMEs, particularly entrepreneurs, confidence that the Ministry is serious about developing not only industry but also entrepreneurship.

"SMEs have become the economic backbone. I believe SMEs account for 95 per cent of Sabah's economy. We have very few high-impact investments, many are mostly categorised as SMEs," he said.

He added that the renaming of his Ministry would improve its ability to tap into the Federal Entrepreneur Development and Cooperative Ministry led by Datuk Ewon Benedick.

“Ewon is also my good friend, so we will work closely together. In fact, the idea for renaming the Ministry came from both of us. We recently had an engagement session and we both discussed it.

"We want to consolidate efforts because we cannot work in silo. We should all be working in the same direction," he said.

On the programme at hand, Phoong congratulated Crest Megaway Sdn Bhd Chairman Datuk James Hwong and his directors, Julia Hwong, Micheline Hwong and Jason Hwong on the opening of The Gallery. 


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