Sabah can build a resilient, equitable, and prosperous future, says Dr. Joachim

KOTA KINABALU: The future of local governance in Sabah is expected to be characterised by efforts to enhance autonomy, embrace digital transformation, promote sustainability, and ensure inclusive and participatory governance.


Deputy Chief Minister II Datuk Seri Dr Joachim Gunsalam said that by addressing these areas, Sabah can build a resilient, equitable, and prosperous future for its communities.

“The effectiveness of these efforts will depend on continuous collaboration between local authorities, the Federal Government, the private sector, and the citizens of Sabah,” he said when officiating the Seminar on The Future of Local Governance: Trends and Transformations at the Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu here today.

The seminar was organised by the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah), the IDS, and the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).

Dr. Joachim, who is also the local government and housing minister, earlier said local governance is not only close to his heart but also of paramount importance to all.

He said governance refers to the political and institutional procedures that govern decision-making and implementation, adding that governance procedures are most effective when they are participatory, responsible, transparent, efficient, inclusive, and adhere to the rule of law.

“Local governance is the bedrock of our society, while good governance is crucial, especially at the local level, where governments interact with people and communities on a daily basis. This will ensure that our communities are safe, our streets are clean, our children receive a quality education, and our environment is protected,” he said.

According to him, good governance depends on the ability to take responsibility for both administration and people.

“I believe our purpose here today is to understand, share knowledge, and exchange information on the idea of how local governance trends and transformations will take place in the future.

“As we go through dynamic changes in our society—environmentally, economically, and socially—it is essential for the government to understand the emerging trends and transformation needs in local governance to create adaptive, inclusive, and responsive surroundings to meet the needs of the people.

“A strong system of local governance is important to ensure the effective functioning of the state, especially towards achieving the success of the Hala Tuju Sabah Maju Jaya (SMJ) Development Plan. The participation and strong collaboration of the community enable local governance to establish methods through inclusive and effective involvement.

“Therefore, we want a citizen-centric approach by considering the needs and voices of people, especially when designing, delivering, implementing, and evaluating public policies and services.”

Dr. Joachim said his ministry, together with other government ministries, departments, and agencies, aims to enhance the effectiveness of local governance, improve housing conditions, and ensure sustainable and inclusive development across the state.

Through these initiatives, he said, the Ministry seeks to create a better living environment for all residents and, at the same time, promote the overall socioeconomic development of Sabah.

“As part of the government’s effort towards achieving SMJ aspirations, the idea of establishing smart cities in popular locations in Sabah has been seriously undertaken since 2021. The initiative to create digital economy ecosystems that would benefit local communities has been the top priority.

“Smart Sabah was appointed under the purview of the Chief Minister Department to oversee the initiative towards the digitalization of Sabah. Last year, a collaboration between the state government and Huawei Technologies was sealed to initiate the implementation of digital services for the government, businesses, and the community.”

Smart city planning should work towards shaping liveable, inclusive, sustainable, and resilient urban areas, with digitalization and innovation as key drivers in improving lives and livelihoods, he said.

“This includes focusing on shaping policies to drive inclusive and sustainable development, supporting local ecosystem development, building skills and abilities to leverage digital, and identifying and implementing the most appropriate solutions.

“Digital changes have significantly impacted how local governance should be established. Advantages, obstacles, and approaches should be explored more to make an easy entrance for advanced technology used efficiently in administration work, engage citizens, and make decisions based on data.

“However, challenges such as unequal access to technology, cyber threats, resistance to change, financial limitations, and privacy concerns should be addressed. Addressing these challenges requires careful planning, investment in infrastructure, training, updating policies, and ongoing engagement with citizens. By tackling these issues, local governments can make the most of digital transformation and improve governance and community development.” Dr. Joachim said there has been a significant transformation in local governance in recent years.

The advent of technology has brought about changes that were unimaginable a few decades ago, he said, adding that today there are smart cities where everything from traffic management to waste disposal is managed through sophisticated software systems.

“We have e-governance platforms that allow citizens to interact with their local government at the click of a button.

“But the transformation is not just technological. There is a growing trend towards participatory governance, where citizens are not just passive recipients of services but active participants in decision-making processes. This is a significant shift from the traditional top-down approach to a more bottom-up, community-driven approach.

“However, these trends also bring new challenges. The rapid pace of technological change can be overwhelming, and there is a risk of widening the digital divide. The move towards participatory governance requires a change in mindset, both from the government and the community.

“So, how do we navigate these trends and transformations? I believe the answer lies in education and engagement. We need to educate our citizens about the changes happening in local governance and engage them in the process. We need to ensure that no one is left behind in this digital revolution.”

Dr. Joachim believes the seminar will be the platform for discussing and contributing ideas, input, and experience regarding the future of local governance in the state.
He urged all stakeholders—district offices, local authorities, councillors, government departments and agencies, policymakers, civil movement groups, academicians and research institutions, NGOs, community members, and business leaders—to be involved in shaping and creating more informed, inclusive, and effective decision-making, fostering a collaborative environment where diverse interests are considered and balanced.

Also present were Chairman of IDS, Datuk Seri Hajah Azizah Mohd Dun; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Datuk Dr Jamili Nais; Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IDS, Datuk Dr Ramzah Dambul; Deputy Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Rural Development of Sabah, Patricia Vian; and District and Executive Officers.

Related Articles


Latest Articles