Tue, 30 May 2023



The tough get going when the going gets tough...
Published on: Sunday, May 21, 2023
By: Datuk John Lo
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Yes, Sabah has been going through some extremely tough times for the last 30 years. The worst nightmares are being manifested in Sabah’s crumbling infrastructures. Today are dried taps, tomorrow is power failures, day after tomorrow can be landslides.

Absolute nightmare is flooding which can cause extensive damages to homes. Our plights are endless. To reset all these and Sabah’s other economic issues which have been left without holistic solutions for decades, are tough, really formidable.

The going may get worse [hopefully not] before we can see better days. Let’s us pray that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.    Past Poor leadership has caused present Sabah’s economic problems and crumbling infrastructures.

Inevitability of 2 realities: 

[a] First reality: Poor leadership=failed state. Good economic leadership=prosperous, progressive state like Singapore and China.

[b] Second reality: Sabah’s economic issues and crumbling infrastructures will take time, dedicated leadership and innovativeness to solve.

As elected representatives, many leaders should own up to their responsibilities of these 2 problems, have allowed them to plague Sabahans continuously and have failed to provide solutions, have ignored or in cohort with non-Sabahans to exploit Sabah. There had been little economic leadership or initiative. Suffice to say that Sabah’s system, in spite of great natural wealth, has suffered systemic shutdown. Sabah is famous for all the wrong reasons.

Most gravely, poor leadership produces bad policies, doomed-to-fail implementation and ugly corruption.

Many problems are due to bad management.

All organisations, especially poorly managed governments, breed all sorts of problems if the top leadership does not pay attention or does not practice good, prudent management. Many signs are being manifested.

These can be seen clearly in the present state of Sabah’s infrastructures, be it water, road, airport, power, sewerage and WIFI connectivity.

The other obvious sign is the lack of co-ordination, each party is too eager to indulge in protection of turf ownership. Sabah has too many little Napoleons, too many parties “working in silos” mind set. Good case in point is the recent KKIA case of water shut down. 2 very pertinent points.

[a] Unprecedented and creating aviation history, KKIA management has asked in coming planes to load up water from their point of origin. 3 consequences: [i] Ugly embarrassment for Sabah as a tourist destination. [ii] KKIA management should have been considerate about the cost involved. [iii] KKIA could have sourced water supply in KK for the planes.

[b] The Water Department and KKIA have no liaison. If there is, preparation would have been in place. No body seems to care or concerned with the consequences, resulting in Sabah’s tourism reputation having suffered a big hit due to poor management and silo mind set.

Major system revamp is a must.

Over the years, due to poor leadership and bad management, much of the system has become a burden to Sabahans. Very little is helpful for Sabahans to pursue economic advancements or to seek official decisions on normal stuffs. The obstacles in the system, even for small mundane things, has become almost impossible to overcome within a decent time frame, even with the written support from YBs. The YBs’ letters have become impotent and useless.

The most serious impediment for Sabah’s economic progress is the archaic system. Ordinary Sabahans and businessmen are forced to waste an inordinately amount of time and money to chase after simply replies and decisions. They can use the wasted time more productively.

SKN Safar’s initiative on digitization for Sabah will improve the delivery system considerably.

Unprecedented attention on Sabah’s perennial problems.

Though the going is tough, there are signs that the tough is beginning to go away. It will gather momentum. Look at several interesting recent developments.

[a] Of great significance, Hajiji has spoken on Sabah’s rightful demands under MA63 at the opening of the Unity Government Convention [in the presence of Anwar], which no other Sabah leader has done before so openly. Anwar, in his response, has stated in no uncertain terms that he would restore the positions of Sabah and Sarawak as the rightful partners under MA63. 

[b] Hajiji has been able to reset some Sabah’s rights under MA63, especially in oil and gas and power generation. Significantly, he has even-keeled the Federal/Sabah relationship which has been very one-sided until recently. However, Sabahans should be aware that a lot more needs to be done. This journey’s end is still a way to go. The going can get less tough only if there is political stability and unity in Sabah. Without these, all that has been achieved may come to naught. 

[c] In the present positive political ambiance, Anwar has said the Federal Government would take over water supply in Sabah in order to sort out Sabah’s water woes. No detail has been released. Hajiji has been quick to point out that Federal Government will provide assistance, not taking over ownership.

To make up for the past 30 years of neglects inflicted on Sabah, the Federal Government can temporarily takeover and restore Sabah’s water management, inject sufficient investment and hand it back to the Sabah Government. Water is a vital resource that Sabah can’t lose ownership. 

[d] Shahelmy is proactively on the ground to solve Sabah’s water supply problems. The gate in the Sandakan dam has been repaired. The salty water taste will be overcome soon.

[e] The economic problem of chicken or the egg problem is being sorted out. Hajiji’s investor friendly policies have attracted billions of investments. These are the chickens to lay the eggs! Now MIDE Minister, Ginger Phoong has the tough job of looking for Sabahans with skills to fill the labour needs of these huge investments. Thousands of Sabahans will be required. Not easy for Ginger as years of brain drain has almost depleted Sabah’s most vital resource. However, I am confident he can overcome it. He is young, energetic and well organised. Above all, he is very much in touch with the young generation. I hope parents with children working outside Sabah and SAYAP can assist him to spread this news around.

Ginger Phoong will seek investment on renewable or green energy for Sabah.

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!

Who knows? When will some better days come to Sabah? There are signs of economic resurgence in a number of critical areas. Many other areas need to be sorted out. It is most gratifying that many young Sabahans have returned and have started all sort of business. No doubt the number will increase.

For sure, for the first time, Sabah’s economic problems and infrastructures, are receiving the utmost attention in a holistic manner. Hajiji has summoned the chiefs of SESB and Sabah Energy Commission. Present was Shahelmy. Hajiji has asked SKN to take drastic action to solve the issues.

The tough has begun to get going in Sabah.

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk John Lo and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]


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