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On choosing the right person to lead Sabah
Published on: Sunday, March 11, 2018

By Datuk John Lo
Since assuming office of the Chief Minister of Sabah, Tan Sri Musa has transformed Sabah’s economy.

Before, the backbone industry was timber and oil palm with little value add. Tourism and manufacturing were at infancy. From 2003 to now, these industries have grown in maturity with more exciting prospects in employment and business opportunities under his Halatuju vision. These are verifiable information –

[a] Many downstream, value added factories have been established in POIC.

[b] Billions of downstream-investments in oil and gas at SOGIP. More in the pipeline.

[c] Huge investment in hotel and tourism related industry, with impressive, increasing tourist arrivals especially from China and Korea.

[d] Thousands of jobs have been created.

[e] State budgets and reserves have increased in tandem with expansion and higher sophistication of the economy.

Given Sabah’s extremely small domestic market and limited disposal income, the only way Sabah can grow our economy is to rely on and tap into foreign markets. Musa has steered Sabah’s economic growth by expanding our outreach into these markets. Gone are the days where our economic base was on timber and CPO only.

Geopolitical and global economic developments have little effects on us. Not anymore.

We are now service and manufacturing based, highly dependent on foreign markets and foreign investments.

Please read my article on 3 February in Sunday Forum. [http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read.cfm?NewsID=2760]. Sabah has outgrown the kampong economy. In addition to the qualifications/requirements for candidates for CM that I have written last week, the CM after GE14 must have the foresight and economic intelligence to steer our more sophisticated economy in the best possible way in the light of present global uncertainties so that our standard of living can continue to improve. If our CM after GE14 does not have the skills and experience to chart a course for our economy in these uncertain, turbulent times, Sabah’s economy can be plagued with stagnation and worse, degeneration. Much of the progress that have been achieved may go up in smoke. I will endeavour to highlight some geopolitical and global economic concerns that may impact our economy negatively.

Many uncertainties have already materialised and more will surface in Europe with Britain going out of the EU.

The European economy is weighted down by 2nd tier and weaker country members.

Sabah, being the biggest oil palm state in Malaysia, can be affected badly when EU bans input of palm oil for biodiesel. Read statement by Malaysia’s minister on this matter- [https://www.reuters.com/article/malaysia-palmoil-eu/european-move-to-ban-palm-oil-from-biofuels-is-crop-apartheid-malaysia-idUSL3N1PD1NJ]

The Berlin Court has already allowed German cities to ban the use of diesel, including biodiesel of which palm oil is an important ingredient. The nail is already in the coffin for diesel as Germany is the largest economy in Europe. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/27/german-court-rules-cities-can-ban-diesel-cars-to-tackle-pollution].

India has also increased import tax on palm oil to highest level in decades- CPO from 15pc to 30pc and refined edible oil from 25pc to 40pc [https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/agri-business/import-tax-on-edible-oils-raised/article9965984.ece]

This is a developing story which has the most dangerous implications on the world economy– the trade war that Donald Trump has started. How will it unfold and its effects on us are yet to be apparent but, like tomorrow’s sunrise, they are coming. What is certain is that USA which is the biggest economy in the world, is withdrawing from the world economy. The western countries have built their post war posterities on free trade.

Donald Trump is going to destroy it by engaging a reverse gear from free trade.

The world economy may very well shrink when major nations trade blows against each other.

China, EU, Canada, Brazil and Mexico have already said they will retaliate.

To hit China in particular, Trump has announced tariff increase of 25pc on steel and 10pc on Aluminium.

Against EU, he will increase tariffs of 25pc on cars.

Trump firmly believes that USA can easily win the trade war which will benefit his country.

Little does he realise that USA has become uncompetitive in many industries and is losing the will to lead the world. As at present, Trump is unlikely to back down from his madness.

The saving factor in Malaysia’s and Sabah’s favour is the NPC’s [National People Congress of China] decision to allow President Xi Jing Ping to continue holding office beyond the established two terms limit.

President Xi has a soft spot for Malaysia. Tan Sri Musa has cultivated good relationship with China.

This will be a great help for us.

Recognising Sabah’s growing economy and potential, China has opened its consulate in KK.

Many other countries have appointed Honorary Consuls in KK. The latest is Belgium which has appointed senior and well-known lawyer, Mr. Mau Kam Peng as its first Honorary Consul. The launching will be on 2oth March

I want to round off my thoughts on which candidate for CM can deliver good economic future?

This question is not important to Sabahan voters who do not have concerns with their economic wellbeing and their children’s future. They may want to focus on emotion or political consideration.

Or they may look at GE14 as a venue to vent their racial or personal feelings. Or for whatever illogical reasons.

All these wishes I respect.

However, for Sabahan voters, especially the Y generation who like to keep our present progress and build on what Sabah has achieved so far, they need to examine carefully who is the right candidate that can, like a skilful captain on a ship in a turbulent sea, lead us to shore of the promised land of more economic prosperities.

Firstly, is his ability to manage, control the state government and its many agencies/ GLC, plug leakages, prudence in expenditure, keep state budgets healthy, use the state reserves sensibly and be innovative to seek and encourage new businesses and economic activities of higher quality that will give us better incomes/profits.

Secondly, equally important, is that the candidate we vote into the office of CM, must have the right experience, personal stature to deal with the complexity of geopolitical and global economic issues that will impact Sabah.

The way I see it is that the world which will be embroiled with a complicated trade war, will pose serious challenges for a small economy like Sabah’s.

Voting for the right candidate for CM for personal or narrow interest will not give long term benefits.

All the wise men in China including Lao Tzu and Confucius who have lived more than 2,500 years ago, have advised the country must be managed to benefit all – poor and rich, weak and powerful.

China went through many turbulent and chaotic periods whenever this principle has been ignored by the rulers.

So, our candidate for CM must have a vision for all.

Giving your votes to the right candidate is like voting to safeguard yourself and your economic future.

The right candidate for CM after GE14 must be a leader for all Sabahans, must have all the above qualifications so that all Sabahans particularly our Y generation, under his leadership, can continue our lives with economic progress. In short, the right candidate must have a realistic, proven economic vision that will work for all Sabahans and can fulfil our aspirations.

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