Unraveling Sabah’s Socioeconomic Dilemma: Will The New-10-Year Bumiputera Plan Work to help Sabahans?

As Malaysia anticipates the launch of Minister Rafizi Ramli’s ambitious 10-year Bumiputera plan, the state of Sabah emerges as a poignant case study, reflecting the complex interplay between economic challenges and governance issues.

Despite the state is blessed with natural wealth, Sabah remains mired in a quagmire of corruption, cronyism, and nepotism, fueled by a heavy reliance on public-driven sectors like tourism and oil and gas, and of course the endless contribution from the Federal Government.

Economic Minister YB Rafizi Ramli said in the Parliament that the focus for Sabah is creating job opportunities, namely integrated farming to help the hardcore poor. For the 390 hardcore poor families in Sabah, the number of unregistered families is likely to be more than what was reported in the PADU system.

But does creation of jobs in Sabah match the economic growth?

The reality is, Sabah’s socio-economic condition has not improved even for the B40 and M40 income earners in the last 20 years. For the 3.59 million Sabahans, traditional macro economic indicators such as Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and the reported increase state surplus have failed to reflect the realities of the socioeconomic condition and the dwindling purchasing power amidst rising inflation.

In addition, other than newly appointed chairman and board of directors, the creation of Sabah state GLCS and GLICs are not seen to transform the socio-economic status of Sabahan in a meaningful and sustainable way.

New jobs for Bumiputera professionals in Sabah remain stagnant. Other than muscle-draining hard labour opportunity to build the USD $3.5 billion Pan Borneo Highway, Sabahans have not much choice but to migrate to the urban centers for better economic opportunities.

That leaves the state leadership, future political and economic landscape of Sabah in a rather bad shape as long the power house in Sabah continue to bring the required seats to support a stable Government.

Is Madani Government offering major changes to Sabahan?

Sabah’s economic landscape for the next few years will be continued to marred by systemic corruption and rampant cronyism, reminiscent of past scandals such as 1MDB that have tarnished Malaysia. The state’s dependency on Federal support and public-driven economy exacerbates these issues, creating fertile ground for rent-seeking behavior and patronage networks.

One glaring example of this malaise is the case of Datuk Thomas Logijin, Secretary to the Sabah Ministry of Industry and Entrepreneurship, who is recently embroiled in allegations of cronyism. Investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (SPRM) reveal early patterns of favoritism, with contracts allegedly awarded to foreign entities like Taiwan-based UNITED OCEAN, BRIGHSTAR COMPANY, and BALOIS, raising serious questions about the integrity of procurement processes within the state.

Moreover, Sabah’s Bumiputera communities face significant barriers to participation in the oil and gas sector, further exacerbating socioeconomic disparities.

Despite being indigenous to the land, many Sabahan Oil and Gas Bumiputera vendors find themselves marginalized and displaced in favor of Chinese counterparts, perceived as more competent. This trend underscores the urgent need to address systemic inequalities and promote inclusive economic policies that empower local communities.

The pressure on entities like Sabah Development Berhad and SMJ Energy, both led by Datuk Panglima Lim Haw Kuang to prioritize the interests of Sabahan Bumiputera vendors highlights the stakes involved. With ambitious plans by Sabah-owned SMJ Energy failing to incorporate Sabahan Bumiputera agenda, there is growing concern that economic initiatives may exacerbate rather than alleviate existing disparities.

Supremely confident Sabah Finance Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun is now under tremendous pressure to fix loss-making Sabah state-owned GLCs in addition to newly-found leakages, cronyism and other malpractices that are deep-rooted in the a rather fragile political landscape.

The question whether new policy changes in Sabah benefit Bumiputeras are yet to be seen, and possible misalignment to the Federal Government’s effort is very apparent given the decentralize powers given to the state of Sabah to dictate demands in favour of political support.

Amidst these challenges, Minister Rafizi’s 10-year Bumiputera plan holds a grand promise as a vehicle for socioeconomic upliftment for Sabah. Political analysts view this as another round of political manifesto in view of Sabah’s State Election.

However, its success hinges on addressing the real job creation for professional Sabahans, addressing root causes of corruption and nepotism that have plagued Sabah for decades.

Without robust governance mechanisms and accountability measures by Chief Minister Hajiji and Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, the plan risks being undermined by vested interests and rent-seeking behavior, echoing the pitfalls of past scandals like the 1MDB affair.

The parallels between Sabah’s socioeconomic realities and past scandals like 1MDB serve as a sobering reminder of the perils of unchecked corruption and cronyism. Just as the 1MDB scandal rocked Malaysia’s economy and eroded public trust, Sabah’s continued struggles with governance issues threaten to derail efforts at inclusive development and equitable growth.

The lesson we learnt from Jho Low is abundantly clear. Empowerment of Sabah’s economic state affair to few powerful individuals may result in another round of corruption scandal similar to the 1MDB that placed Malaysia on the global map.

Without decisive action to address these multifaceted challenges, the promise of Madani Bumiputera plan set-forth by Minister Rafizi Ramli may remain elusive, leaving Sabahans trapped in a cycle of poverty and inequality. The economic condition will be worsened as state GLCs in Sabah are merely busy with financial re-engineering their assets, raising sukuk bonds, without putting adding value to projects that have direct multiplier effects for local Sabahans.

Even with technology enablers like PADU system, the answer for Sabahans lies in structural reforms backed by strong implementation policies that are galvanized by a group of project management team in the civil service to get things running.

Is Economic Minister YB Rafizi Ramli and Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun equipped to execute rather ambitious plan to benefit Sabahans?

In conclusion, the state of Sabah stands at a crossroads, grappling with deep-rooted governance issues and socioeconomic disparities that threaten to undermine efforts at inclusive development. Economic Minister Rafizi’s Bumiputera plan may offer a glimmer of hope, but its success depends on addressing the systemic challenges that have long plagued the state. Only by confronting corruption, cronyism, and nepotism head-on can Sabah pave the way for a brighter future for all its citizens.

Political analysts are not confident that Finance Minister Masidi Manjun who has been entrusted by CM Sabah Hajiji will fix the socio-economic state of Sabah in view of the grand ambitious Bumiputera Plan.

Under the new Madani Government, the Sabahans are either waiting patiently for the ambitious socioeconomic transformation to happen or continued to be shackled by another wave of empty promises by politicians who came from the same cohort of elected representatives.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more

Related Posts