KOTA KINABALU: Sabah must move away from a conventional exploitative extractive economy into a digital circular one given Sabah’s vast agricultural, forest and nature capital endowments as well as its strategic geographical advantage and potential.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said Sabah, under the Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) State Government, are poised to do the transition.
He said Sabah must capitalise on these competitive advantages, adding what the State needs now are stronger, braver and more innovative leadership and good governance; good and efficient infrastructure including ports and harbours with a well-connected multi-model network of roads, railways and public transport systems.
Internet connectivity with up-to-date 5G services and international gateways; a global trading platform; economic and professional manpower and connectivity with the right educational and training policies and platforms to empower the people particularly youths and women will also help the state achieve its goals.Access to global financial capital and investors; good multilevel strategic plans and nature conservation will also be important factors.
“We are going to put together a good team of professionals and good economic development strategies for Sabah. I expect that if we succeed in doing this, we would be able to double Sabah’s GDP per capita from USD6,000 to USD12,000 within the next two years.
“Such strategies must include highly impactful development activities at all levels of society. Poverty and corruption must be eliminated through digitalising the economy, blockchain and by activating ‘lazy assets’.
“We must have a shift in our mentality and could not afford to continue with our old ‘business as usual’ ways.“We must raise the Sabah economy on to a global platform to take advantage of global opportunities and raise Sabah’s financial capacity. Only then Sabah can be more financially independent.
“When Sabah is strong financially and politically, then Sabah can succesfully claim her constitutional rights and more importantly, her independence,” said Kitingan, who is also the State Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, in his New Year 2022 message here today.
Kitingan, who is also the President of Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) which is a component of GRS, said just over a year ago, GRS won the mandate to rebuild Sabah, to rekindle her spirit and to restore the fidelity of the government to Sabahans.
“When we first took over, we took stock of the situation that had befallen Sabah at the time. High unemployment, poverty was rising, confidence was low and our GDP continued to plummet despite good times anywhere else in the world.
“To top it all off, we took reign of the government at the worst time possible – right in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak, a once-in-a-century pandemic.
“Our already ailing economy was plunging at breakneck speed toward oblivion and the election result at the time showed that the public was fed up with a government that lacked direction and vision for Sabah,” he said.When GRS was elected, he said he knew that they had to somehow wriggle themselves away from the traditional and established economy.
“I knew that Sabah would never be able to compete with her much larger, much advanced neighbours like China and Indonesia.“We lack the necessary infrastructure and the right people to launch a new industrial revolution in Sabah. I have dreamed of Sabah becoming a regional hub for high-speed internet because of our geographic location, but that proved to be easier said than done and requires a lot of money; money that we do not have,” he said.
He said in fact, for the past decades, the State has spent billions of ringgit to develop infrastructure but the investment it craves never comes.
“We can only look with envy at the prosperity of our neighbours.“Eight of the ten poorest districts in this federation are in Sabah. Despite all our resources, our oil and timber, we still could not eradicate poverty in our great nation.
“However, come to think of it, we are not at all poor. Take a look around you. We are blessed in abundance with our beautiful nature, our heritage. And while the world of old may reward the industrialists, in the world today, green is gold.
“For any country in this world, to succeed, they should consider going green and dive into the circular economy. The whole world is concerned about the negative effects of climate change, not only on the global economy and our health, but on the survival of humanity itself due to carbon emissions and environmental degradation,” he said.
“And with what we already have, we are in the perfect position to partake in this new economy and walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the world.
“But going green is not just about the environment, nature and conservation. It is also about healthy living and the emerging circular digital economy – smart carbon, green technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, deep learning, big data, organic and sustainable farming and cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and the dawn of metaverse,” said Kitingan who is Keningau MP and Tambunan Assemblyman.