OPENING SPEECH FOR THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ECONOMIC CORRIDORS: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS BY YAB TAN SRI DATUK SERI PANGLIMA MUSA HAJI AMAN CHIEF MINISTER OF SABAH CUM CHAIRMAN OF SEDIA, 29 JANUARY 2018 AT LE MERIDIEN HOTEL, KOTA KINABALU.
Welcome to the National Conference on Economic Corridors: Challenges and Prospects, a timely event as the economic corridors initiative was rolled out about 10 years ago. The establishment of Malaysia’s five economic corridors was initiated under the Ninth Malaysia Plan and meant to address development gaps while pushing forward the country’s economic growth. I am happy that Kota Kinabalu was selected as the venue for this first national conference, a recognition for Sabah as having great potential in driving the nation’s economic growth. There is also the potential of leveraging the strategic geographical position of Kota Kinabalu to turn it into a logistics hub in ASEAN.
Sabah Ports Authority is listed as a member of the Malaysia-China Port Alliance and this will allow Kota Kinabalu via Sapangar Bay Container Terminal to participate in the One-Belt One Road initiative promoted by China. Kota Kinabalu International Airport is already the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur International Airport, drawing over three million visitors last year.
The approach in all of the economic corridors is to foster public-private smart partnerships, primarily leveraging the public-private partnership (PPP) model. The five corridors -- Iskandar Malaysia (IM), Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), East Coast Economic Region (ECER), Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) and Sarawak Corridor of Renewal Energy (SCORE) have their respective blueprints and corridor authorities. Initially, the focus was on the establishment of corridor authorities and fixing basic issues, especially basic infrastructure to spur investment and uplift the overall living standard.
During the Tenth Malaysia Plan, focus shifted to promoting growth in areas having the highest potential for economic impact with priority to building clusters and high economic impact sectors. The economic development of regions was accelerated by focusing around high-density clusters that have sector and geographic advantages. The key focus includes developing key urban centres, dedicated economic clusters such as palm oil industrial clusters and agropolitan regions. Clustering enables firms to benefit from common resources, facilitates labour market matching and contributes to knowledge sharing. Others measures implemented include facilitating private investment, coordinating between agencies, supporting industry ecosystems and creating employment opportunities; identifying anchor investors to spearhead development of the corridors; and shifting the focus of corridor authorities on smaller key industry clusters within localised geographies. During the Eleventh Malaysia Plan period, the global landscape had become increasingly challenging, with greater volatility in the global economy as a result of a decline in oil prices, realignment of exchange rates, as well as geopolitical risks.
Malaysia is expected to achieve steady economic growth and is poised to attain the aspiration of becoming an advanced economy and inclusive nation by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, the nation will need to ensure that its economic focus pivots towards high-value and knowledge-intensive activities. One of the economic focus under the National Strategic Thrust of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan is to re-engineer economic growth for greater prosperity. Regional economic corridors will be further developed to ensure balanced development and there will be greater investment in selected cities to enhance their global competitiveness and gain from economic agglomeration.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will continue to be strengthened to increase their share in terms of Gross Domestic Product and exports. Efforts to promote innovation will be undertaken at the enterprise and societal levels and efforts will be implemented to provide a more conducive business environment to attract higher value added investment to rural areas.
Under the National Strategic Thrust, one key focus areas is accelerating regional growth for better geographic balance. Two strategies have been identified for the regional corridor authorities to carryout in order to accelerate regional growth – the first being a strategic review of regional economic corridor master plans revisiting regional economic corridor priorities and industry focus; and the second being accelerating investment in regional economic corridors by enhancing facilitation for investors, improving connectivity and mobility as well as intensifying research, development and commercialisation. In the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, the five regional economic corridors are expected to realize investment of RM236 billion and create 470,000 jobs by 2020
In order to be able to collectively achieve the target set for the remaining period of the Eleventh Malaysia Plan and achieve the objectives of the economic corridors, there is a clear need for all corridor authorities to take stock of the milestones they have covered as well as the impacts and outcome they have generated to ensure that they are on track towards achieving their respective objectives. The corridor authorities will then lay out their respective strategies and action plans going forward. The review for the SDC Blueprint is expected to commence soon and I recommend that regional corridor authorities publish a Regional Economic Corridor Scorecard, outlining their strategies, programmes, performance and impacts to the nation after a decade since their establishment.
This first national conference jointly hosted by SEDIA, IDS (Sabah) and UMS provides an excellent platform for discussions involving all stakeholders to objectively review performance and progress, as well as to provide input regarding the directions, strategies, projects and action plans which could be considered by the respective authorities. This conference provides a good insight into the strategies, development programmes and projects planned and implemented, and the impacts of such initiatives at the local, state and national levels.
For investors, this conference provides an excellent opportunity for you to appraise investment opportunities. I urge you to look beyond the potential emerging investment opportunities, such as in Industry 4.0, bio-economy, aerospace and creative industries.
To mark the 10th year anniversary of the Sabah Development Corridor, we will witness the launch of a book entitled The Journey: Ten Years of SDC, which was written, compiled and edited by the staff of SEDIA themselves. Congratulation to all those involved in this publication.
I thank presenters and moderators, the secretariat and all delegates for making it possible for the organisers to successfully organize this first conference. On this note and on behalf of the Sabah Chief Minister, I am honoured to declare the National Conference on Economic Corridors: Challenges and Prospects, open. Thank you.