Stop giving excuses, just tackle Sabah economic slump, Shafie told

SAPP president Yong Teck Lee shows a copy of the World Bank report of December 2019 titled ‘Malaysia Economic Monitor – Making Ends Meet’.

KOTA KINABALU: The Warisan-led caretaker government was told today to find effective measures to tackle the economic slump in the state instead of blaming Covid-19 and politics.

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee said while Covid-19 only emerged in February, Sabah’s economy started to decline in 2018 when Warisan took over the helm of the state.

The SAPP president claimed that business confidence was “shaken to the core” because the state government was seen to have no respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of legal contracts.

“The lame excuse that the slump in Sabah started earlier is totally bogus because 2017 saw a high gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 8.2%,” he said in a statement.

“In 2018, the GDP fell to a mere 1.5%, one of the lowest in the country.

“Last year, it was a meagre 0.5%, which means stagnation. What is in store for 2020 and 2021? Shops are closing down, people are losing their jobs and economic activities are grinding to a halt.”

Caretaker chief minister Shafie Apdal yesterday said the economic downturn was not his government’s fault but that it had been building up before he took office.

The Semporna MP said in the two years of Warisan’s rule, he had to tackle many political challenges in reviving the economy, adding he had to face “Covid politics”.

Yong said as a founding member of state government think tank Institute of Development Studies (IDS), he was shocked to learn that Sabah’s economy was coming to a standstill after attending one of its meetings last year,

He said then IDS chairman Simon Sipaun and his management had subsequently organised a briefing by the World Bank, which was held earlier this year.

“It was obvious that the Malaysian economy, even before Covid-19 appeared, was facing strong headwinds,” he said.

“The report reminded me of the Asian financial crisis of 1997/98 when the region’s share markets collapsed and many banks had to close down.

“Now that a Warisan leader, (deputy president) Darell Leiking, has taken over as the IDS chairman, I hope the management will continue to inform the chief minister and his Cabinet that their view of a rosy picture of Sabah under Warisan is only an illusion.”

Yong also contended that the Warisan-led state government had earned a dubious name for making billion-dollar announcements.

According to him, after Shafie’s trip to China in April last year, the chief minister had claimed that the state would receive RM20 billion worth of investment.

This was followed by another announcement of a RM13 billion investment in a petrol chemical plant by Burel Industries in the Lahad Datu Palm Oil Industrial Cluster.

In addition, RM6 billion of foreign direct investments was previously announced by Leiking, then the international trade and industry minister, after his trip to the US.

Other announcements included Tan Chong Motors (for an investment of RM600 million), a Kota Kinabalu city resort (RM5 billion), Kota Kinabalu-to-Kudat railway (RM5.2 billion), Lok Kawi Resort (RM7 billion) and Papar dam (RM3 billion).

“The investments totalled more than RM70 billion. But where is the money?” he asked.