There are several types of economic trust. In the current context of Sabah, investor confidence is deemed most relevant as it will lead to renewed investment in Sabah, provide employment and economic activities among others.
Sabah’s “negative investors”.
The story will help to appreciate the daunting task of restoring Sabah’s economy.
It is the fault of our former leaders. They allowed it. Sabah has been infested with “negative investors” who have trampled Sabah’s interest underfoot, leaving peanuts for ordinary Sabahans. In many cases, they even encouraged the exploitation of Sabah for their own benefit. Many of these type of investors are still around. Who are these “negative investors” and who are they? They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are several types of “negative investors”: [a] Cronies of politicians especially for big federal projects and West Malaysian land grabs. [b] Extractive. [c] Predator. [d] Particularly relevant destroyer for the environment.
Sabah’s “negative investors” have and engage in one or more of these economic activities: [a] Mining as in Mamut. [b] Federal projects like the Pan Borneo flash floods that destroyed homes, livestock stocks and property in Penampang. [c] Oil and gas like in Petronas pumping our gas through Sabah to Bintulu and shipping our crude to Malacca and Johore for refining and downstream. [d] Oil palm like in no downstream, no jobs for Sabahans, siphon their profits to KL. [e] Timber as can be seen in a large area of land left ‘botak’ by timber tycoons. [f] UFA who have not replanted any more trees after extracting the logs from the natural forest more than 20 years ago. [g] High cost and abuse of monopoly or cartel rights granted by the government to GLCs and “privileged companies”. [h] Fishing as theft of illegal fishing in our territorial waters.
Unwanted impacts of “negative investors”
Why are the Sabahans poor, unemployed despite our vast resources?
Simply put, some of the undesirable impacts of these “negative investors” are [a] They have drained and will drain our resources. [b] No value chain development and no endorsement [c] Leave few or no jobs for the Sabahans. [d] Siphon off all or most of their profits. [e] Little or no multiplier benefits. [e] No reinvestment.
The sum total of all the undesirable impacts of these “negative investors” have “stolen” Sabah’s rich resources, leaving behind many poor Sabahans, plagued by poverty, low incomes, high unemployment and poor infrastructure. What is worse is that the people of Saba have lost control of all critical sectors of the economy.
Reviving Sabah’s economic confidence.
Two factors to remember. [a] Hajiji’s task of restoring economic confidence is extremely difficult. [b] Converting these “negative investors” who are still in Sabah and who hold strangling control of the economy into “productive investors” will be an impossibility unless strict value chain policies can be established.
There is no silver bullet or panacea for this very long-standing problem. It takes a lot of mental strength, political courage and endurance. Hajiji is right in opting for a solution that combines reforming the existing situation and at the same time seeking new credible investors who are willing to work with the government of Sabah on win-win formulas.
To attract the right investors, Sabah needs to nurture the investor confidence that Hajiji managed to resurrect for Sabah in 2021.
Nurture investor confidence.
Investor confidence from the right kind of investors [not negative investors] is a fragile thing. It needs a lot of TLC [tender loving care!]. Neglect it or ignore it with indifference, it will evaporate like a puff of smoke.
In Sabah’s current environment, these components are important for cultivating investor confidence: [a] Political leaders must prove they are serious and capable of managing Sabah’s economy by producing investor-friendly policies + incentives. [b] Political leaders must show maturity by demonstrating true political unity and stability. The petty and cantankerous politicians are sure to drive out the real investors and destroy Sabah’s economy. [c] A high degree of professionalism in the procedure and approval process for investment proposals is essential. In this regard, it is imperative that Invest Sabah Bhd is fully adapted as soon as possible. [d] All state machinery must be up to date, particularly in the implementation of investment policies. Procrastination kills investors. [e] The government must have policies to match rising costs like the minimum wage with rising productivity. High-wage, low-productivity workers are not good for investment. [f] Last but not least, there must be a list of investment products to attract investors. Don’t waste time with negative investors, they are everywhere, can pick them up on the street.
To remember, attracting the right investments is a very competitive business in this era of high inflation, pandemic, global uncertainties and increased war tension in NATO/Russia. Every country desperately needs good investors.
Some UFAs have seen no replanting and oil palm is believed to be grown to make a quick buck in some areas.