Musa Aman is well known in Malaysia and across the globe as a leader who is totally committed to development and good governance. His record 3 terms as the Chief Minister of his home state of Sabah exemplifies Musa Aman’s commitment to a development Agenda, rising above all other political considerations. He ushered in a paradigm shift towards pro-people and pro-active good governance, bringing in a positive change in the life of many in Sabah. His tireless efforts were guided by the principle of Collective efforts, inclusive growth where each and every person was an important stakeholder in Sabah’s development journey.
When he took over as Chief Minister on 27th March 2003 Musa Aman did not have much time to settle into his new job. The state was reeling under the aftereffects of a severe cash crunch and there was nothing much in the State Treasury. Even Yayasan Sabah (YS) was badly in need of funds and retrenchment and Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS) was the order of the day. The entire world had written off Sabah and it was believed that Sabah would take years to develop. Musa Aman proved them all wrong. In a record span of time Sabah was up and running and today it’s reserves in the State Treasury is more than RM3 billion and has become the cynosure of the world’s eyes.
Musa’s success as an administrator lay in his out of the box thinking. That’s why when he recently spoke to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak he emphasised that the Sabah State government needs greater autonomy for rural development projects.
The Sabah government wants autonomy in terms of planing, funding and implementation of rural development projects so that they can be completed and delivered on time. There are too many Federal agencies involved at the Federal level at the implementation stage that contributed to the delay of projects. Development of rural areas has been hampered due to delay in channnelling of funds, bureaucracy and politicking.
Billions of ringgit were channelled by the Federal Government for development projects involving rural roads, rural electricity, rural water supply and household assistance program via Shafie Apdal’s Rural Development Ministry in the past, but, there was so much hiccups and many projects were delayed and some have not even taken off. With greater control of development funds by the State Government, the planning and implementation of infrastructure projects would be more structured, streamlined and aligned with the State’s overall development objective. Hence by giving more autonomy, Sabah can plan and implement projects in a more holistic manner.
Sabah State Government knows the Sabah turf better. Besides, Sabah State Government is more than able to manage funds from the Federal. Sabah State Government under Musa has a good track record in managing its finance which is proven by Sabah having the best record of financial management in Malaysia for two consecutive years and awarded a ‘clean bill’ by the Auditor-General for 14 consecutive years as well as given ‘AAA’ ratings by Rating Services Berhad RAM for six years in a row. All these happened during Musa tenure.
It is Musa’s firm belief also that – “a Government does not have any business doing business”. What a government should do, however is to create a positive climate that will bring investment. Instances of these approaches were seen time and again, last year Sabah received RM2.4 billion from local investors and RM1 billion was injected by foreign investors and gave a boost to employment creation in Sabah. There was quantum jump in both the MoUs inked and the investment coming. Sabah development Corridor (SDC) has RM135 billion worth of cumulative investments, out of which, RM45 billion have been realised.
Musa did not have much time to catch his breath when he took over as CM in 2003 facing grave adversities and in challenging circumstances. But he rose to the occasion, turned every challenge into an opportunity and transformed Sabah into a state that not only Malaysia but also the entire world is today proud of.
This was told to me by Musa a long time ago but its so meaningful even now, “It is said that community who fails to learn lesson from the past lag behind. Our own experience is no different from this saying. We have to build a better Sabah by taking appropriate lesson from our own history. And we have to define the road today itself. The challenge before this ever-changing society and time is to turn change into progress. Like what Nelson Mandela said: “Vision without action is, but a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with the action changes the world”.
This piece came out in Daily Express Sunday Forum today 13th September 2015