KOTA KINABALU: Investment should be the new growth driver for Sabah, said Qhazanah Sabah Group Chairman Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak.
He said this was necessary as for many years, Sabah did not receive huge amount of investment.
“Over the past 40 years, based on the reported figure of the total approved investment by MIDA in Sabah, in most years total investment was less than a billion.
“Certain other states like Selangor and Penang received over a billion a year without fail most of the years. Investment may come in many forms and range of sectors or sub-sectors, from manufacturing to tourism,” he said.
Sharing his thoughts at the Sabah International Business And Economic Summit (SIBES), here today, Salleh said
Sabah must now focus on attracting high-quality investments from foreign and domestic companies through various investment strategies and policy initiatives amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
To this end, the former Sabah Chief Minister said the state government should think seriously on attracting investment from other countries and Peninsular Malaysia.
“The focus should be on expanding down streaming activities in the manufacturing sector, serious effort to attract relocation of factories and manufacturing plants from West Malaysia and other countries.
“If we can do this, I believe the gap can be reduced significantly,” he said.
Underlining new approaches to boost investments in the state, Salleh said investment approval period must be reduced and the process being simplified.
“There is a serious need to facilitate investment, to look at present weaknesses and further improve the existing work process.
“For example, application processing and processing time that has to undergo certain stages such as Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) or Detail Environment Impact Assessment (DEIA) for certain types of investment, land conversion, red tapes within government agency or local authority perhaps can be shortened. By this only the process can be expedite,” he said.
On this regard, Salleh, who is also Usukan State Assemblyman, said he had raised this issue in the state assembly and “this also has been assured by Sabah Chief Minister”.
“At times, we have to be firm enough and fast in making decision to reap the benefits of investments such as job creation in the economy,” he said.
Salleh said cost of doing business, investment administrative or other cost needs to be brought down significantly.
“For example, we must reduce the cost of rental/leasing for land etc in industrial park for investment as it is also one of the means that could attract investors,” he said.
He also highlighted the need for aggressive investment promotion, relaxing regulation or policy involving immigration, investment priority areas and introducing incentives for factory relocation especially from Peninsular Malaysia, besides enhancing basic infrastructure and enablers in the economy.
“It is also important to note that there are always new investment opportunities beyond the three main sectors which are agriculture, industry and tourism.
“To be realistic, at this point of time, tourism may take some time before things back to normal, but investment for high end tourism market or luxury market can be considered,” he said.
Salleh also emphasised the need to
focus on investment that is more practical to be materialized.
These include investment involving infrastructure development, housing projects, smart city in strategic locations, border town in Serudong, water privatization, and many other potential areas as mentioned in the Sabah Maju Jaya 5 year Development Plan, he said.