KOTA KINABALU: Widening career prospects in Sabah’s East coast are catching the attention of learning institutions.
News of the State government’s ambition to make the East Coast districts from Sandakan and Tawau as Sabah’s new economic growth centre are beginning to arouse the imagination of academics and business groups.
State-owned enterprises such as POIC Sabah Sdn Bhd which is developing the POIC Lahad Datu has been touting the East coast’s potentials in oil palm elated industrialization and logistics that leverages on Sabah’s centrality within BIMP EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area) and its position along the Lombok-Makassar shipping route.
In a several days field visit to the east coast that kicked off with a stopover at POIC Lahad Datu on Wednesday, an 84 member group from Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sabah got overall perspective on Sabah’s east coast economic potential going forward. The group was led by lecturer, Ts. Gs. Dr. Alexius Korom.
The students from the Faculty of Plantation and Agrotechnology were on an excursion to industrial set-ups in Semporna, Tawau and Lahad Datu, with a particular interest in deeper understanding of the oil palm industry.
Mdm Lynette Hoo, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of POIC Sabah conducted briefing for the group and addressed multi-faceted questions.
They learned about oil palm’s role in the Sabah economy and the State govt’s ambition to industrialize the oil palm industry that will add value, create high skilled jobs and modernize the economy.
Aside from deepening the oil palm industry, Sabah also has extensive development plans which, amongst others, seek to turn Sabah east coast particularly Lahad Datu into a growth and logistics hub for the entire east Asean territories of BIMP EAGA.
Among the catalyst initiatives in Lahad Datu that have been taken are a study to build a new international airport, creation of a maritime academy, a transportation hub.
“With our great geographical location, our industrial park, and complete set of dry bulk, liquid bulk and container terminals, we want to attract BIMP EAGA to use us, POIC as the hub where resources such as oil and gas, palm oil, coconut oil, seaweed and marine products, can be amalgamated to attract foreign investments to produce high value products.”
“We envisage our east coast, centred in Lahad Datu, to experience unprecedented economic activities and offering job prospects in many fields from agriculture to engineering to logistics.”
In a Q&A exchange, students showed their awareness of prevailing challenges including inadequate internet connectivity, dealing with Indonesia’s unpredictable policies on oil palm and their technological prowess or lack of, as well as the anti-oil palm lobby linked to producers of other edible oils.
Indonesia is the biggest palm oil producer in the world, with Malaysia in second place.
The two nations combine for over 80% of the world’s oil palm equatorial countries in Africa have in recent years gone aggressively into planting oil palm, most of them with Malaysian connections.
Meanwhile, Lynette lauded UiTM’s initiative towards familiarising students of career choices on the ground.
“We’ve been speaking to secondary schools in the east coast about POIC, the oil palm industry hoping to influence their choice of studies and career decisions.”
“Oil palm will remain important to Sabah’s economy, and we look forward to seeing more and more of young people picking related careers and play a role in taking Sabah forward.”
Plans for POIC Lahad Datu and East coast in general have in recent months drawn the attention of, for example, the Malaysia China Chamber of Commerce and govt-backed Malaysia China Business Council. The China Construction Bank and POIC Sabah signed a collaboration agreement (9th April 2022) seeking to create a finance platform to attract potential investors from China.
Locally, a delegation from the Sabah Branch of the China Malaysia chamber of Commerce visited POIC Lahad Datu recently to understand the industrial park’s potential in the regional East Asean context.