Agri, tourism Sabah’s future unlike S’pore
Published on: Sunday, July 18, 2021
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Pulau Gaya should remain an island park or else KK will become a city without a soul. (Credit: trekearth.com)
DATUK John Lo’s article asking encourage Sabahans to work closer with Singapore and emulate Singapore’s success story (DE 4.7.2021) refers.  No one disagrees with  Lo that Sabah ought to emulate Singapore’s success story and entice Singaporeans to invest in Sabah, particularly in oil and gas and agriculture.  Singaporeans are always welcome to visit and invest in Sabah.

Before going further, let’s start by how Singapore had become rich and famous, despite having no natural resources.  Singapore is rated among the top when it comes to the oil and gas industry, even though they have no oil and gas.

The Singapore success story of the last two hundred years can be attributed to the following:-

- The British upon colonising Singapore declared it a Free Port.  Singapore accepted any and everything, including cash money, without any records.

- This undermined its neighbours economy in Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand, Indo-China and the Philippines.  All exports by these countries went through Singapore because of its Free Port, encouraged by the British to support Singapore’s economy.  As a result exporters from these neighbouring countries kept part of their proceeds from sale of commodities in Singapore.

- The Businessmen of Singapore made tons of money by these transactions.

- Money Laundering and corrupt money.  Singapore freely accepted illegal money into its banking system from Malaya, Indonesia, Thailand, Indo-China and the Philippines.

- The amount of smuggled money from these neighbouring countries increased dramatically after the Second World War, when the countries and leaders got richer and more corrupt.  During the twentieth century, Bank Negara Malaysia reported that every year, over RM10 billion in cash found its way to Singapore.  Over the years, Malaysia’s cash to Singapore would amount to a few hundred billion.  This is in addition to legitimate interbank transactions.

- Accepting smuggled goods and commodities.  Take the commodity Tin, in the 1920s UNTAD (United Nation Customs) published that in any particular year, Singapore exported 37,000 tons of Tin, whereas Customs only declared that 17,000 tons had been imported. The 20,000 tons can only be explained by smuggling from Malaysia, Thailand, Indo-China or Indonesia.

- Hong Kong became wealthier based on similar laws and policies as Singapore, at the expense of mainland China, Taiwan and Korea.

- In the late sixties, for over forty years during the timber boom, Sabah must have exported over US$1 billion worth of timber every year. It can be said that over 25% of the proceeds was deposited either in Hong Kong or Singapore.  Even now there are many Sabahans or Malaysians having accounts with Singapore Banks.

It was reported in the media, that when President Obama assumed the Presidency of USA, he immediately called on all Americans who kept their money overseas, particularly in Swiss banks, to bring it back to USA.  This resulted in some US$350 billion getting transferred from Swiss Banks to Singapore.

Nevertheless the world has changed and so has Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland who are required to follow the new world order.  No more money laundering, no more corruption money, no more smuggled goods and commodities.  All are recorded.

Based on these facts, there is no way that Sabah can possibly emulate Singapore, it is too late and not allowed by the world any more.  Two hundred years ago it was a case of Free for All for the following facts and reasons:-

- Singapore started two hundred years ago, when the world, and particularly Asia was lawless and laundering money, smuggling and corruption were part of the culture.

- When the world decided “enough is enough” Singapore established casinos at Marina Bay and Sentosa.  The gamblers at these casinos are mainly from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines given its close proximity, but more important also from China.

- The Singapore Government ignore the reality and fact that casinos have caused many to commit suicide and the poor to sell their houses and so on.  Singapore leaders are without heart, priority is to maintain Singapore as the destination for the rich and famous in the world.  Life is nothing to Singapore leaders.

- For the rich and famous in neighbouring countries, the casinos in Singapore are perfect for laundering corrupt monies.  In other words, dirty money enters the casino and comes out clean. Casinos will keep Singapore going, irrespective whether it is famous for this and that.

- Almost 100pc of Singaporean are Chinese, who are known to be hard working and industrious.  Sabah on the other hand is 80% native comprising of Malays, Kadazans and Muruts.  These people  will just carry on with what comes their way.  They are not industrious.

- Internationally and Malaysia’s laws  does not allow laundered money, corruption or ill gotten money to enter Sabah Banks.  Sabah considers barter trade as smuggling and the goods from neighbouring countries: Sulu, Indonesia and Brunei are confiscated and auctioned off  by the authorities. Even crafts which are not on the Customs list of items.

- On the issue of why Singaporeans prefer to invest in Malaya.  Infrastructure is fully developed, land premium is cheap, delivery systems by Government Department and agencies are perfect and clear.

- Sabah, however, takes months and years to get a simple approval for development plans, licences and land transactions. Foreign investors expect approval on the spot and for infrastructure to exist or at the very least to work.

- Oil and gas is a sunset industry.  The world is converting to greener energy generated by Hydro, Solar and Winds.  Sabah oil and gas is expensive and unattractive to investors.

- The proposal to open a trade and tourism office at Singapore is considered unnecessary.  These days all promotion is be done electronically online.  Sabah has nothing to trade apart from Palm Oil which is almost 100% owned by Malaya.  Investments and Tourism can be promoted on Singapore TV or even CNN and The Straits Times.  

It should be noted that a few years ago, the Malaysian Minister for Tourism was a Sabahan.  Similarly Minister for Economy also a Sabahan.  What have these Warisan Ministers done for Sabah?  Again zero.

- Sabahans must accept that, Sabah is an agricultural country.  It imports almost 100pc of its food, manufactured food, rice and fruits including avocado and vegetables.  The reason is that wealthy city dwellers, who are mostly non-natives, prefer imported to locally produced, and the rural poor natives just live on jungle vegetables and fruits.

- It would be folly for Sabah to build another city on Pulau Gaya with buildings comparable to Singapore and Dubai. There is no comparison between Sabah, Dubai and Singapore.  Dubai is surrounded by rich countries and people.  Singapore was developed with illegal money from poor Asian countries, it will absolutely destroy Kota Kinabalu’s only land mark forever.  

It is best to turn Pulau Gaya into an island park and remain a landmark for Kota Kinabalu.  Tourists come to Sabah to escape concrete buildings like those in Singapore, Dubai and even Shanghai.  They want to experience a peaceful and natural environment, with blue skies, seas and a vibrant jungle.  

Therefore, it is important for those in authority not to be carried away by developers whose sole ambition is to make money and migrate, leaving the rest of us Sabahans a city without a soul.

Lastly, since Sabah is an agricultural country, its only option is work hard and even and plant Ubi Kayu (Tapioca) for export to China.  

For Sabah to follow and emulate the success story of Singapore, is not logical for the above reasons. 

Therefore, it is advisable for Sabah to follow and emulate Japan and Vietnam.  Both are successful countries without taking illegal and corruption monies from their neighbours.  Both countries are of Chinese Stock, hard working and industries people. 

Awang Jumbul

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