Yong: Solutions, not excuses, needed to slump

Kota Kinabalu, Thursday, 13 August 2020

The Sabah government should find urgent and effective solutions to the economic slump facing Sabah instead of only blaming Covid-19 and politics. Covid-19 emerged only in February this year whereas the Sabah economy started to plunge in 2018 when the newly installed Sabah government disrupted economic production and on-going economic activities in Sabah. Business confidence was shaken to the core when the Sabah government was seen to have no respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of legal contracts.

The lame excuse that the slump in Sabah started earlier is totally bogus because the year 2017 saw a high GDP growth of 8.2%. In the 2018, GDP fell to a mere 1.5%, one of the lowest in the country. Last year 2019, GDP was a meagre 0.5% which means stagnation. What is in store for 2020 and 2021? Shops are closing down, people are losing jobs, economic activities are grinding to a halt.

For the sake of Sabah people

At a time when Sabah needs all the federal help we can get, our Sabah chief minister instead chose to bid for the post of the Prime Minister. As though it was not folly enough to abuse Sabah government assets to plot the overthrow of the Prime Minister, our Chief Minister fell for the fantasy of making Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the federal opposition leader, his Deputy Prime Minister. For the sake of the people, the Warisan Party should drop its folly of engaging in plots to overthrow the Prime Minister.

Sabah economy now at a standstill

As a founding member attending a meeting of the reputable Institute of Development Studies (IDS) last year, the Sabah government think tank, I was shocked to learn that the Sabah economy was coming to a standstill. The then Chairman of IDS, the eminent and highly respected Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, and his management had organised a briefing by the World Bank earlier this year. It was obvious that the Malaysia economy, even before Covid-19 appeared, was facing strong headwinds. The report reminded me of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/98 when the Asian share markets collapsed and many banks had to close down.

(caption: Yong holding a copy of the World Bank report of December 2019 entitled “Malaysia Economic Monitor – Making Ends Meet).

Now that a Warisan leader, Datuk Darell Leiking, has taken over as the Chairman of IDS, I hope the IDS management will continue to inform the Chief Minister and his cabinet that their view of a rosy picture of Sabah under Warisan is only an illusion.   

Self-delusions of multi-billion announcements

This Sabah government has earned a dubious name for making billion dollar announcements.

After his China trip in April 2019, the Chief Minister had claimed that RM20 billions worth of investment. Another RM13 billion worth of petrol chemical investment by a Dutch company (Burel) at Lahad Datu Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC).

RM6 billion of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) was announced by the (then) federal minister of trade, Datuk Darell Leiking, after his trip to the USA.

Other announcements included Tan Chong Motors RM600 million, a KK City Resort RM5 billion, KK to Kudat railway (RM5.2 billion), Lok Kawi Resort (RM 7 billion), Papar Dam (RM3 billion).

The announcements totalled up to more than RM70 billion. But where is the money?

A fanciful announcement which everyone knows will go nowhere is “another multi-billion Kudat deep sea port”, which can only end up competing with Sepanggar port.

The Chief Minister had also boasted about IKEA coming to Sabah when log exports are banned.  What was needed instead was to engage the Sabah Timber Industries Association on their key concerns like market accessibility, electricity tariffs, work force quality, ports and freight and raw materials availability.

Datuk Yong Teck Lee
Ex-Chief Minister, SAPP President

Author: Johnny Chin