I am honoured to join you here this evening and I wish to congratulate the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MICCI) on the celebration of  your 180th years of existence.  This is indeed a momentous accomplishment, showing your resilience having gone through many cycles of change in the commerce and industry climate.


Despite some challenges, Sabah has still registered favourable trade and investment figures. Sabah's total external trade in 2016 was RM70.26 billion, comprising RM41.4 billion in exports and RM28.95 billion in imports. Our largest export markets last year were India, Australia, China, Philippines and Netherlands, and sources of import include China, the United States, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.


Last year, the manufacturing sector received RM2.14 billion of investment and was also responsible for creating over 4,500 jobs. Looking ahead into 2018, the State’s economy remains positive as the global economy is projected to improve. Higher growth is projected for economies of Sabah’s major export destinations.  As we enter the third year of the 11th Malaysia Plan, growth is expected to be mainly driven by public and domestic investment, with private sector investment confidence improving as the economy picks up.


The Sabah Government is fully committed to bringing economic development and progress to Sabah through the development of key industrial clusters which include agriculture, oil and gas, manufacturing and tourism. Transforming into a high-income economy will also involve improving basic infrastructure, encouraging down-stream activities and the production of high quality goods and services as well as capitalising on human resources with multiple skills and competencies to address our future challenges.


Implementation is on-going to improve infrastructure such as the Pan-Borneo Highway, the Kota Kinabalu transportation master plan and the Sabah International Convention Centre. When completed, these projects will provide strong impetus for the State’s economic transformation in the coming years. 


The realisation of Sabah as a regional transshipment hub for the region has come a step closer with the removal of the 30-year old cabotage policy for Sabah effective June 1 of this year.  The ensuing more competitive shipping environment and further improvements made to capacity and efficiencies at Sapanggar Bay Container Port should act as a strong catalyst to stimulate greater activities in the port and ultimately bring down the cost of doing business in Sabah.


Private sector efforts have become more important given the enormous amount work that Sabah still needs to put in to attain the goals and objectives of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) blueprint. The SDC is in tandem with Malaysia’s mission to become a developed nation by 2020 and in the coming year, private sector investment remains vital for the development of the State’s economy.


It is important for the State Government to respond to global and domestic needs and with this restructure and diversify our economy from merely depending on primary exports to one that focuses on the importance of adding value to products and services, and to one that is knowledge-driven and understands the value of the digital era.


Initiatives to improve infrastructure and to attract foreign investments in various industrial parks such as the Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP); POIC Lahad Datu; POIC Sandakan and the newest, Sabah Oil and Gas Industrial Park (SOGIP) have achieved great milestones.  At KKIP, there are over 260 industries with an investment worth of RM2.8 billion and more than 8,600 jobs, while the other initiatives have also recorded high investment rates and created over 7,000 jobs.


There are other investment projects under planning by agencies under the Ministry of Industrial Development to drive industrial development. These include the Second Ammonia Plant  project by Petronas and a high tech fertilizer plant through foreign investment in SOGIP. Sabah is also expected to have the first Oleo Chemical and Fatty Acid factories in POIC Lahad Datu within the next one to two years. KKIP is meanwhile expected to play an important role in attracting investment into Sabah by initiating a plan to set up the Digital Free Trade Zone or better known as DFTZ.


In order for the State Government to achieve its economic vision, the private sector has a crucial role to play as both sides have to work hand-in-hand in order for us to achieve a prosperous Sabah. I therefore strongly encourage members of MICCI to continuously support the government in its efforts to promote Sabah as the ultimate investment destination in the region. 


With this, I wish to congratulate all long standing members of MICCI Sabah Branch for their active involvement in its programmes and efforts which have contributed to the development of the State’s economy through the decades.  


I wish you an enjoyable evening and Happy 180th Anniversary to MICCI. Thank you.