Posts Tagged ‘development’


For long, Sabah was considered a “poverty” state, what with extreme destitution, a massive influx of illegal immigrants and corruption being considered synonymous with the state. But all that is now history. The state is now on the fast track to shed its “poverty” tag, having achieved one of the highest GDP growth rates in recent years. The iconic changes have been ushered in by the Musa Aman-led government after he took over the reins in 2003.

The metamorphosis has not gone unnoticed in the country as well as abroad. Sabah is now considered a state on the move, thanks to improvement in governance, law and order, infrastructure and financial discipline. “My first three priorities are governance, governance and governance,” Musa had once said. The stress on governance was primarily because of his finding that Sabah had suffered not just because of bad governance but also due to a lack of it. After taking oath as the chief minister, he embarked on the journey of development with justice. Till recently, it was beyond the people’s imagination that Sabah could embark on a trajectory of development, and an inclusive and equitable one too.

Profile of the state started changing since late 2003. Plan expenditure leapfrogged from RM1.22 billion in 1984 to RM3.84 billion in 2013. The annual growth rate of Gross State Domestic Product, which averaged 2.42% between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, jumped to 7.36% for 2013. Even tourism receipts of RM 6.35 billion for 2013 was the highest record where 3.3 million tourist arrivals of which 2.29 million was domestic arrivals. This growth rate and the consequent transformation in the economic profile of the state made the country sit up and take notice, since it had surpassed many developed states.

“Sabah’s turnaround illustrates how a handful of seemingly small changes can yield big results in Sabah’s most impoverished and badly governed districts. Sabah is a textbook case of how leadership determines development. At a recent speech at the premier assembly with members of the State and Federal public service personnel at the auditorium Menara Tun Mustapha, Musa said since the people have given the mandate to the Barisan National to lead the people in Sabah, it was imperative for civil servants to deliver and ensure the success of policies and programmes that had been planed.

In the same speech he also talked about prudence, he being in the East-coast of Sabah in Brumas a week ago, visiting Yayasan Sabah subsidary the Sabah SoftWoods, and the next day he had to go for Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching’s Chinese New Year Open House in Tawau. He could have driven down from Brumas to Tawau which was just an hour’s drive and stayed at the Promenade Hotel’s suite with a few other rooms for his security personals. This could have easily cost the state RM five thousand, but he refused to spent that money and instead stayed on at YS Guest house for free. He was similiarly requested by former deputy chief Minister of Sabah, Tham Nyip Shen to come down to Tawau and stay in comfort at the hotel but Musa adamantly refused. Now we know how Musa accumulated more than RM3 billion in cash reserves for the Sabah state government.

Remember, under Musa, Sabah has been given recognition by the Auditor-General for its financial administration and 9 agencies, including district offices and departments, all having been given four-star rating. Many who had given up on Sabah are constantly astonished by the ‘turnaround’ of the state. Musa Aman has achieved the status of a miracle worker.  How did he manage to resurrect the state? Musa works well under Prime Minister  Najib Tun Razak and his younger Foreign Minister brother Anifah is also a political ally of Najib. Putrajaya sees him as someone who is reliable and the Prime Minister even once said to Musa, “I have been to all the states but when I think about Sabah, I can sleep well.”

Musa is a professional manager. His years as a banker, businessman and Sabah Finance Minister has certainly proven to be of great help to Sabahans. But more than a minister or chief minister, Musa thinks of himself as a politician. A professional politician. Although he exudes an air of supremacy but he is still humble. When he took over as chief minister in 2003, he would often remind civil servants that his ministry had the greatest stake in the performance of the government, not the bureaucracy. If the government achieved success, his ministry would get all the credit; if it failed, his ministry would have to bear all the blame. In short the bureaucrats wouldn’t have lost their jobs – He would. So, from the outset, he concentrated on driving the bureaucracy. During the years when Sabah had so many chief ministers at the helm, the bureaucracy had stopped thinking because the leader never provoked them, or taking action because it was not expected of them. Problems remained unresolved in the absence of ideas. Implementation of programmes lagged for lack of exertion.

The twin problems Musa faced were of his people suffering and him having to propel a paraplegic bureaucracy to join him in his attempt to resolve that suffering. In the initial few months of his first tenure Musa held long meetings with officers of all departments. He tried to understand where things stood, where they were going wrong, and in the process also gauge the quality of senior bureaucrats: how much each bureaucrat understood his job, whether he had new ideas to offer, how much of a leader he was; who was a charlatan, who had a social conscience, who was earnest, who was a shirker.

Musa used a hands-on approach in all areas. That was his style. He would not be there just to frame policies and draw up programmes and leave the implementation to the bureaucracy. He did not believe in the conventional method of governance as it had come to be followed in post-Independence Sabah. He believed implementation was the key. Governments usually faltered on implementation. Ministers would call officers to meetings and lecture them on policies and programmes, and there the involvement ended. Once the officers saw the chief minister individually involved, they got involved themselves. There was somebody watching them. Musa regularly monitored the progress of the programmes. That kept up the momentum.

Sermons did not help; what worked was the delegation of powers. Responsibility would still be considered a burden by officers if no authority was given to them. Musa framed a policy delegating authority down the line from the minister of a department to the junior-most officer for approval of projects of a progressively declining amount. Authority for approval of projects and freedom of action alone, however, could not have brought about the success in his ‘Halatuju’ development framework for the state which focused on tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. There was a wholly new driving force he had created that worked wonders. Musa was even successful in further preventing occurrence of another Lahad Datu Style intrusion by bloodthirsty crackpots from Southern Philippines. The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has stepped up security measures, with heightened alert from the military and police, in the 10 districts placed under the Esszone.

Sabah is far from becoming a paradise despite these initiatives.

The best that can be said of the transformation Musa Aman has brought is that he has pulled Sabah back from the dead. That is a significant accomplishment in itself. At last Sabah has shown stirrings of life. But there is a long way to go but Musa has put the Sabah administration back on an even keel and brought changes to the state.

In a recent development, unscrupulous elements are trying to drum up religious sentiments in Sabah to disrupt harmony among peaceful Sabahns. So I asked Musa what his take is on this. Interestingly, he said “Sabahans must get on with their lives and not be carried away by certain quarters who are trying to create chaos and confusion. Sabahans must take heed of the experience of countries that fell into abyss from prosperity due to distrust and lack of respect for each other’s religion and belief. The present generation and leadership should strive for excellence to be inherited by the next generation, instead of destruction, sufferings and misery.”

Musa said about the changing Sabah: “The state is experiencing all-round development because of our policy of ensuring that the benefits of development first go to those at the bottom of the social ladder. Over the years, we rose above the feelings of race and religion, and have worked tirelessly on the agenda of inclusive development of the state.” Musa believes in the maxim of “miles to go before I sleep”. He once told me “I work 24×7 without a break, thinking often of the philosophy of uninterrupted service day and night. I understand this will need to go on without any let-up, so that more and more people join hands to bring a brighter future. I am not fully satisfied with the work done. But one has to remain dissatisfied only to move ahead with vigour. I feel satisfied seeing the happy faces of people, who are now living without any fear.”


And so it begins. The very first has just been presented by the new Sabah Government after being re-elected in May 2013, and after hours of back and forth (cursing and paper tearing included), the new budget shows that the Sabah Government is committed to progress and is also as determined to increase the pace of development in the state.

Musa Aman says the bulk of the Sabah budget is earmarked for development. The RM4.622 billion of the Sabah budget for the financial year of 2013-2014 proposed by Chief Minister-cum-State Finance Minister Musa Aman in the state assembly Friday sought to tell the Sabah growth story vis-a-vis Malaysia’s and achieve the five-year dream in the first year itself. The release states “The new budget for 2013-14 would build new confidence among people and showcase state’s potentialities before the world”. “Ensuring Continuity of People’s Well being”, it was announced that new missions and schemes, referring to State Barisan National’s Government is very committed to the development of not only in the urban but also rural areas in Sabah and at the same time ensuring nobody is sidelined in the budget.

A press statement continued by saying that “The State 2014 Budget is higher by nearly 80-fold than Sabah’s first State Budget 50 years ago where the revenue estimate was only RM61.5 million while the expenditure estimate was RM61 million. In 1974, the estimated revenue rose to RM207 million and the estimated expenditure increased to RM239 million. Ten years later in 1984, the estimated revenue reached RM1.22 billion while State revenue rose to RM1.38 billion. 2014, has set the highest ever State revenue target which is RM4.58 billion, marking an increase of 20 per cent from 2013’s original estimate of RM3.83 billion.”

Even as the Federal government earmarks just 35 per cent of the Federal Budget for development work, the Sabah government spends as much as 65 per cent of the state Budget on development work. Talking about Sabah’s contributing a lion’s share in the nation’s development, Musa said, “Although the state government was elected for a five-year term, it resolves to fulfill the people’s aspirations from the very first year itself.”

While Musa’s budget speech said the state economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the past five decades since independence, he added that “I am confident that people from all walks of live regardless of religion, race, gender, rich, poor, old or young, physically challenged, wherever they may be ( whether on land or sea); people’s well-being and States prosperity are our main agendas for us to always strive for, which are certainly achievable.”

So there is the mission for which the government has allocated RM 1.58 billion “for improving infrastructure and public amenities”. This is besides RM627.92 million allocate to upgrade water supply. Musa claims that to achieve zero hardcore poor target and reduce relative poor in Sabah, the government has allocated RM178.14 million to implement various programmes. The reduction of poverty from 19.7% in 2009 to 8.1% in 2012 proved that the governments efforts in this has borne fruits.

The budget, claiming to be for inclusive development, seeks to strike balance for growth in both agricultural and industry, enhance quality of life in rural and urban by focusing on housing and infrastructure. To empower the youths the Y Generation so that they will be more valuable, creative, innovative and productive through education, training, skill programmmes, sports and community activities the budget has set aside RM229.86. The budget also proposes The Enhancement of Knowledgeable Livestock Entrepreneur (K-Entrepreneur) Programme which will be continued.

To spur growth in the State tourism sector, particularly on investment in providing tourism facilities, the State Government has approved the Tourism Master Plan covering the coastal areas of Tuaran to Kota Belud and RM233.99 million has been set aside for next year. The State tourism sector targets 3.4 million tourist arrivals and an estimated tourism receipts of RM6.277 billion although while writing this, a Taiwanese tourist got killed and his wife got kidnapped in Pom Pom Island in Semporna by Abu Sayyaf bandits. Perhaps in this instance, it is best if the state tourism sector uses the money to ensure maximum security before handing out pamphlets about exotic resorts in the East Coast of Sabah.

For a fair and unbiased understanding of the ‘Sabah Story’ we should read it with an open mind and look at the State’s performance against the backdrop of the low socio-economic base from where it started its journey to rapid growth and spectacular development. The ‘Sabah Story’ is a story in the making, much like the Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights, it is not a story that concludes here and today and perhaps never will. Sabah inherited low levels of social indicators (at independence) and it is the change in these indicators where Sabah shows impressive progress. The literacy rate has risen from 22 per cent in 1960 to 69 per cent in 2001 and 80 per cent in 2011. Even the infant mortality rate per thousand has fallen from 144 in 1971 to 60 in 2001 and 21 in 2011.”

Anybody reading the ‘Sabah Story’ with an open mind would see it is a story of immense success that inspires hope and determination to achieve greater success. But an open mind is something that is alien to our liberal media and the intellectually bankrupt commentariat that controls publications which lay greater stress on fiction over fact.