SABAH, once almost synonymous with despondency, has been rising from the ashes of gloom and murkiness. The nearly infamous GDP growth rate of 8 per cent that was termed a miracle more than once is not just where the story begins or ends. The dreadful past that saw this North Borneo state decelerating, deteriorating and degrading is hard to picture vis-à-vis the present Sabah.
Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman is increasingly seen as a reformer and renovator with sturdy administrative abilities. Today, the streets of Sabah resemble grace, as opposed to the crumbling hanging bridges and dilapidated highways and streets with no street lights a decade ago. An overwhelming thousands of kilometers of roads, more than hundreds of bridges, and a number of power plants including 12 IPP’s were constructed during Musa Aman’s tenure, including the Kimanis 1.5-Billion-Ringgit gas-fired plant the biggest IPP plant in Sabah – designed for 300MW – to address the power supply issue in the state is in its final stage of construction.
The enhanced transport facilities, especially the highways, have ensured normalcy with the journey time slashed to half. Real estate enjoyed a boom with several building projects taken up. Kota Kinabalu has now adapted itself to modernisation with newer shops and malls opening up and has evolved to become one of the most beautiful city in this parts of the world.
A sharp rise in cement inflow to the state shows the escalation and expansion of construction projects. Agricultural yields have been cited as a major growth factor and oil palm, which is the prime sector in Sabah, has been advantaged a great deal. New Palm oil mills has roped in private investments, and the 4.7-billion-ringgit Ammonia and Urea Plant in Sipitang will provide direct jobs to thousands, something that came as a boon to a state with one of the least employment opportunities. Today, more than 80,000 jobs has been created.
Under Musa Aman, the industrial scenario changed with several big projects being cleared for implementation. The saga has been threaded together with many such incredible deeds that include a massive 35 per cent growth in auto sales, which has a lot to do with the fact that the highways and boulevards are no longer abandoned after 10 pm, and that, in turn, is a direct consequence of terrific administration and governance. The improved law and order situation has been a major reason for this growth tale, and Musa Aman, the man behind it all, vouches for this.
Today no politician can openly challenge the state police; even Akjan the self-proclaimed 33rd Sultan of Sulu, an UMNO man who is strongly connected to both Home Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Minister of Rural and Regional Development Shafie Apdal, was detained and remanded for seven days to facilitate police investigations on him being proclaimed Sulu Sultan in a private ceremony in Kg Likas. No gangsters, Ah Long, don or bandit can roam free after committing a crime and no mafia is given protection by the government. With heavy police patrolling, there is little scope for a criminal or illegals to dodge the claws of legal procedure and penalty. The Federal government has also done its part as it has been quick in filling the enormous number of vacancies in the police force, and what ensued was no surprise. With speedy trials, backlogs were cleared, and within a span of three years, thousands of illegals and criminals were convicted and deported. Bigwigs and VIPs, too, were not spared the customary legal bindings leading to a complete reversal of Sabah’s façade.
Crime rates has also plunged, and the number of kidnappings followed by demand of ransom, which was once thought to be the only vocation in the Eastcoast of Sabah, has plummeted drastically. The improved law and order situation did wonders as investors, convinced about the assurance of safety, have started to invest in Sabah. However, it is not the private sector that is credited with the honour of resurrecting the lost state; it is the state spending that did the job and this year the budget is the highest ever in the history of Sabah 4-Billion-Ringgit and the state having an accumulated reserve of 3-Billion-Ringgit.
During previous tenures, major portions of the allocated funds remained unused as a result of the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities concerned. Tourism plays a part in the economy undoubtedly. The number of tourists has gone up by 13.6% from about 2.5 million in 2010 to almost 2.8 million last year generating RM4.977 billion.
On the other hand, private educational institutions have come up and many unemployed graduates have been given temporary teachers job in schools, colleges and skill training institutions, as part of a major recruitment drive by the government. With changes to notions that were existent in the minds of people regarding Sabah, investors, and not criminals, are finding the state to be the land of prospects. Internet connectivity has improved a lot and internet cafes can be found even in remote areas, mobile service providers have cropped up, so has the pre-paid talk-time and broadband usage reportedly raised heavily. Banking firms are a healthier reality in Sabah today with some banks operating in even in remote areas of Sabah.
The health factor remains dim, despite efforts by the government; so is the poverty rate which remains high because of the presence of high number of illegals from across the border mainly from Southern Philippines, a chief contributor.
There is a need for more private venturing in order for Sabah to curb poverty. One of the jewels in the crown that the reformist Chief Minister wears is the piece of information that the Sabah Development Corridor, launched in 2008, has investment commitments exceeding RM63 billion, of which more than RM16 billion have been realised. Whatever it is, be it the enhanced law and order, improved roads, surging construction activities or the increasing investor faith, architect of revived Sabah Musa Aman needs to be spoken well of. After all, it is not for nothing that Prime Minister Najib showered praises on him.
The economic wonder has not sprung up from nowhere. Massive reorganization was undertaken and implemented. The one thing that Musa Aman propagated with the aim of Sabah’s betterment is ‘discipline’. Now the taxi driver says they are taking home more money since they are commuting passengers even after 10 pm.
It is a clear indication that Musa Aman has satisfied the people, something politicians are here for. There is a lot left to be done for Sabah’s development, along with the one big hurdle Sabah has to tackle — the growing “ILLEGALS with Malaysian Identity Cards” menace which is the Mother of All Problems in Sabah. Musa Aman’s ‘discipline’ would expectantly act as the panacea once again.