Most newspaper has not often taken political sides. Indeed, Malaysian journalism has not had the western tradition of the media declaring its political preferences. In Sabah, however, which has now entered a probable election period, the choice is clear and preferences should be stated. Sabah’s voters have to choose between five more years of a government led by Musa Aman, or five years or less of confusion created by an uncertain and split verdict, or five years of some nameless politician serving his tenure in Kota Kinabalu at Putrajaya’s beck and call.
There are many reasons why Sabah deserves Musa Aman. First, he is a decent chap. In the rough and tumble of Sabah politics it is not easy to come across men and women of basic and simple decency. That in itself should be a good reason for his remaining at the forefront of Sabah politics. Second, he has done an impressive job. While the Pakatan Rakyay plus SAPP has every right to criticise his government and question his record, the fact remains that Musa Aman has done more for Sabah than any other chief minister of this hapless state in the past five decades. Consider some simple numbers.
According to the state’s economic survey published earlier this year, Sabah’s economy registered an annual growth rate of 8 percent over the five-year period from 2004-05 to 2009-10, covering most of the term of Musa Aman. It was only 3.5 percent per year in the previous eight years. This should rule out the idea of returning to an opposition regime. Sabah’s per capita income rose from RM4402.6 per year in 1990 to RM 8441.7 in 2010. This impressive growth comes from an across the board improvement in the state’s performance, barring the industrial sector. Sabah’s agriculture sector, construction, education, health and services sectors have all witnessed impressive growth. Manufacturing and services have been identified as the main growth sectors accounting for 6.9 percent of the total 8.0 percent GDP growth. The manufacturing sector alone is expected to contribute 33.1 percent to the total share of the GDP by the year 2010 from 9.1 percent in 1990. It is only in the industrial sector that the state’s economic survey shows low growth. The services sector, which consists of wholesale and retail, restaurants and hotels, transportation and communication, and other services is targeted to account for 39.3 percent of total GDP by 2010 with an average annual growth rate of 8.9 percent. Sabah has less than 25 per cent share of Malaysia’s agro-processing industries. Despite the much improved performance of agriculture, health and education, Sabah remains a laggard and has a long way to go before it can catch up even with some of the more developed states, not to mention the states of Penang and Selangor.
However, if Sabah has to have a chance, if it has to finally catch up with Selangor and Penang, it needs another five years of the kind of development-oriented administration that Musa Aman gave the state. If Sabah can move closer to the national average in terms of the various indicators of development, that national average will itself rise significantly. Malaysia cannot sustain growth rates of over 8 and 9 per cent, not to mention 10, if populous and large states like Sabah and Sarawak remain stuck in the morass of backwardness, both economically and socially. While Taib Muhamad is wasting a golden opportunity in Sarawak, doing little for development and being obsessed about himself and his wealth and power, Musa Aman has remained focussed on development. He is a model chief minister that other BN states should also aspire for. Our vote goes out to Musa Aman.