Sabah must remedy system failures | Daily Express Online

IN advanced countries, government policies and the administration / implementation system are aligned with the private sector, with government leaders providing leadership to drive the economy with clear directions, well-defined policies, effective implementation and, where appropriate, financial support and / or incentives for private sectors to thrive and prosper. Singapore and China have gone even further with their excellently managed GLC or SOE [State Owned Enterprises]. Often these organizations are the economic engines, occupying pioneering leadership roles in finding new economic ventures, extending their business footprints abroad, creating economic opportunities for domestic private sectors. This is even evident in Sabah as more and more Chinese state-owned contractors take over most of the big projects.

Hidden cost of Sabah’s high professional / living expenses.

Why is doing business in Sabah expensive? Because Sabah has many aspects of government policy and administration / implementation that [a] are not conducive to the development of the private sector and foreign investors from a very efficient / competitive environment. [b] lack of clarity. [c] multiplication of unnecessary hidden expenses. [d] reduce competitive advantage.

All of these hidden costs due to systemic failures in our system add up to make Sabah one of the most expensive places, if not the most expensive, to do business and live. No escape, they cannot be ignored, we have to face demons and solve our basic flaws.


In the following, I will try to show what I mean.

Time is money, delays are expensive.

We pride ourselves when strangers praise us for our ease, Sabah is relaxing. Why? In much of Sabah’s system of government, time is eternal, intangible, and costless. This is far too common, there is no fixed deadline for providing a response to a query or request from members of the public. The usual answers are >>>[a] “Come back” without even bothering to provide a specific day or time. Often the same answer was repeated on the next visit. This can continue until nausea. [b] “The officer has gone for a coffee break.” Why should the service stop just for an agent to go for coffee? Why should members of the public wait for the agent’s return? [c] Service can also shut down anywhere from a few days to a few weeks when an agent has gone to head office meetings or a course. [d] In federal offices, the most popular answer is “while waiting for Putrajaya”. Is there no delegation for the mundane things? What are the highly paid, chauffeured federal agents doing in Sabah? Do they have no decision-making power? Or are they just messengers? The rule of thumb should be that federal agents resolve and approve at least 90% of Sabahans needs. [e] The most damaging case is that of road repairs which cause massive traffic jams. The time cost to the public and the fuel wasted in these traffic jams must be enormous. But no one in authority cares or bother to plan to minimize inconvenience to the public. [f] The already too well-known long delays and administrative nightmares for developers to obtain development permissions are costing them tons of money. These costs, without exception, are passed on to home buyers. Masidi is committed to resolving this eternal cancer.

All these examples and many more of systemic failures of the system in government time management are very costly, constitute a huge brake on economic growth and seriously deter investors. Much of the administrative system of government needs a total overhaul to make it time sensitive. This will involve a transformation of the system and especially of mentalities [more of this later].

How good it is if all departments / agencies can provide quality service like UTC’s.

Simple “follow-ups” can dramatically improve the system.

Monitoring is the simplest management tool ever invented by man. Even “brain dead” can do it. Every successful person uses it for success in life. You are hitting the lottery if you have been given a “follow-up” by a politician or government official who has followed you on any matter. On the contrary, if you are following an affair with a politician or a government agent, it is like chasing after a ghost because inevitably he does not know what you are talking about, there is no record in the system, or the deposit is missing. So you have to start explaining again from the beginning.

In a well-managed country, follow-ups are common. It’s so easy nowadays with computerization.


The policies, the administrative system must facilitate and not hinder.

Many fonts are beautiful in words, wrapped and designed in flowery language, spoken by elegant tongues. Had some of these policies been truly and swiftly implemented, Sabah should not have experienced such widespread poverty.

Reality in everyday practice? Almost without exception, there is an unfathomable maze everywhere, missing files to push the ball, innuendo, “you know what to do lah”.

For Sabah to progress, the public and private sectors must synchronize as a single unit. The policies and the administrative system must facilitate and not hinder as now. Getting decisions / approvals and things to do in Sabah is like pushing a buffalo through the eye of a needle.

The private sector should and should NOT be treated as a spoiler.

There are more troublesome practices than useful ones.

High cost of procrastinations, systemic dysfunctions of the system.

Procrastination and systemic dysfunctions of the system are very costly and are one of the main unrecognized reasons for Sabah’s economic backwardness >>>[a] They lead to poor project execution, costly delays and poor quality. No need to look any further than our bumpy and potholed city roads, awful maintenance in rural roads. [b] They cause poor construction quality, especially government buildings. Also, lower houses which are 30pc more expensive. [c] All of this creates heavy financial burdens in terms of interest costs and cash flow problems throughout the economy, especially for business people. [d] The government is also a victim as it has much lower or slower revenue collection, high unemployment, restricted / stifled multiplier effects. All of this inflicts heavy negative effects on Sabah’s economic growth.


The real victims? Sabahans in the form of higher prices and lower incomes.

Mental change essential for economic improvements in Sabah.

Proposals for solutions to all of the above are no better than unproductive platitudes and worthless promises regurgitated daily by many politicians in the newspapers if there is no transformation of mentalities >>>[a] among the political leaders who I hope can acquire the rare attributes of statesman, economic leadership and vision to make things right for Sabah. Political leaders with these 3 qualities sit head and shoulders above other politicians. They are real leaders in the truest sense of the word. Such political leaders are “blue diamond” rarities. Anyone can be a politician, but few can reach the statesman. [b] When politicians reach statesman maturity, public service, by natural extension, will be transformed. I have met many senior officials who are perfectly capable of taking on transformative roles but have not had the opportunity to do so. Likewise, the private sector. [c] The ultimate priority for the change of mentality is to achieve the upgrading and protection of the economic interests of the Sabahans.

Prioritize these simple maintenance issues, as they are under Sabah’s full control.

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