Sabah council outlines plan to revive economy

A woman hawker with her daughters at the Kota Kinabalu Central Market.

KOTA KINABALU: A business council here has proposed several measures to boost the domestic and regional economies in recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Carl Moosom, head of the Sabah BEBC regional business council, said the “new normal economy for Sabah” should strengthen the state as a regional economic hub.

Moosom’s council is part of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

He said the council had suggested that active trade be prioritised in the Asean/BIMP-EAGA regions, with Sabah as a hub network. He also called for more bilateral trade arrangements between Sabah and countries in the EAGA or Asean regions.

He said trade missions must be focused on regional inter-governmental organisations such as Asean, BIMP-EAGA, Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) and the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS).

Sabah BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) business council (BEBC) chairman Carl Moosom.

Trade facilitation policies within the EAGA subregion should be harmonised. Tariff policies and regulatory control should be considered in consultation with the private sector or industry to shorten processing and delivery.

“Whilst the new normal addresses less human contact, BEBC Sabah is proposing that the state government must fully automate all industries working hours,” he said.

This means ports cannot be operating limited hours, as ships incur more losses, while offices cannot be operating on half-day basis as employers will impose salary reductions, among other examples, he said.

He said air links were also crucial to revive small and medium entreprises and digital e-commerce, allowing for more air cargo. Malaysia is already reported to have a backlog of 600,000 boxes undelivered.

“Connectivity is a key element in the new normal economy for Sabah,” he said.

Moosom called for a tax relief policy to allow businesses to be sustained and recover over a longer period.

SMEs constitute 90% of BIMP-EAGA trading businesses and a majority still rely on sea linkages, he added.

On tourism, Moosom called for budget grants and income tax reliefs for a period of two to three years.

“Our ‘new normal economy’ cannot wait until the MCO term is ceased – we must plan and act now,” he said.

Political economist Firdausi Suffian said Sabah should have an exit strategy, both to secure public health and revive the economy.

Firdausi, from Sabah UiTM, said it was crucial for the state to prepare and not leave matters to the federal government to pick up the pieces on the problems caused by the pandemic.

The second stimulus package by Sabah should have specific focus on protecting the people and stimulating the economy by prioritising SMEs’ interests.


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