What we cannot do ourselves, does not necessarily mean that others can easily do for us. I am appalled at the thought that bringing foreign vessels can definitely bring down the costs of doing business in Sabah. Blaming the cabotage policy is just like picking a leave from the shrub. It is so easily done.
We like to blame the cabotage policy but ourselves. The truth is we rarely examine what we could have done but did not do. Like all communications and relationships, it has always been a two-way traffic. So is shipping. Nothing works if it is a one-way channel. It needs a two-way cargo to balance the trade. There is plenty of exports for Port Kelang to Sabah by container vessels. But Sabah does not seem to reciprocate much in terms of exports to Port Kelang. Why are we lacking?
This means there will be more empty containers in Sabah which must be reshipped to Port Kelang and this cost money. This will easily explain why ocean-freight has almost doubled. But if Sabah can produce much cargo for exports to Port Kelang or to the rest of the world, then this freight can easily be reduced by half. Then no one will complain and our cabotage policy salvaged.
Bringing foreign vessels will not help to alleviate the situation. The explanation is so technical and lengthy. On the other hand, we should have the will power to research and produce what we need and what we can export to Port Kelang.
Relocating the West Malaysian industries to Sabah is one avenue and we must sacrifice much incentives and tax relief. I am sure there are some takers if only the proponents can plan the approach diligently.
Total ban of logs is a must to bring back the timber industry to its former glory. Our manufactured products help to increase our exports to Port Kelang as well as increase the use of containers.
Large scale planting of corns is the easiest cash crop that is much needed by the West Malaysian feed-mills. And Sabah too. In fact if we grow our own corn, Sabah can save foreign exchange close to RM250 million and this amount is plough back into the local farming industry. The high yielding hibrid corn is a sure way and the silage is also good for the cattle industry. There must be other hard vegetable products that can be exported to Port Kelang. In fact the think-tank should study the import statistics of West Malaysia and see what we can produce instead.
Dried seaweeds are in demand and they are shipped to Port Kelang in containers for exports to international markets. I think this crop needs a shot in the arm to increase production. There was a suggestion for the GLC to act as a buying house to ensure good price and good money goes to the farmer. At the moment, the farmer is paid a meagre amount by the middle-trader and this is probably the reason why many are not interested in seaweed cultivation.
The GLC on housing can jv with high-tech prefabricated manufacturers from China on the understanding that the factory is relocated to Sabah. All ready made materials are normally shipped in containers, and West Malaysia is a ready market for affordable homes. The resulting price is definitely 30% below market value.
Datuk Roselan Johar
Chairman- Bimpeaga Business Council.