#POV: Struggling Sabahans: Unmasking the Reality Behind Economic Growth Claims

Warisan Kota Kinabalu Information Chief, Samuel Wong

After three years under the governance of the GRS state government, most Sabahans are still struggling to feel the touted positive economic growth. While the state government sing the praises of prosperity, the people of Sabah continue to endure the distinct reality of poverty and economic hardship.

Parti Warisan Kota Kinabalu Division Information Chief, Samuel Wong stated that despite frequent positive economic growth news articles and announcements by the GRS state government, the people on the ground do not feel the effects of it at all.

In 2022, Sabah claimed the undesirable title of having the highest rate of poverty in Malaysia. Shockingly, 19.7% of the state’s population lives below the poverty line, and counting those who are barely above it, the poverty rate surges beyond 20%. Poverty is truly a painful reality in Sabah. In 2019, Malaysia revised its national poverty line income to RM2208, acknowledging the increasing cost of living. However, Sabah’s economic performance seems unable to bridge the widening gap.

Economists from the University Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Malaysia Inclusive Development and Advancement Institute sound a warning bell. They recommend special attention to the nine poorer states, with Sabah among the poorest, as they record growth and income levels significantly lower than the national median income. The gap with the five richer states is not just widening; it’s a cause for concern.

“Sabah’s 2022 GDP per capita stood at a mere RM36,020.00, and the overall GDP was only RM122,138 million, placing us far below our neighbor, Sarawak. Both states rely heavily on natural resource extraction and exports, including oil, gas, timber, and palm oil. So, why is Sabah’s GDP lagging behind that of Sarawak, despite sharing similar commodities?” asked Samuel.

“This raises crucial questions what causes this economic gap? Are there substantial leakages in the government system, or is mismanagement within government linked companies (GLC) dealing with these commodities contributing to the issue? Could it be that only those GLC with monopolies positively impact the state GDP, masking the real situation?”

“Yet, what’s more perplexing is the continuous narrative from the GRS government. They claim economic improvements and increasing foreign direct investments (FDIs), but the reality on the ground paints an obvious different picture. High unemployment, rising living costs, inflation, struggling businesses especially SMEs, reduced consumer spending and confidence undermine their assertions.”

“One of the major problem in Sabah appears to be the significant gap between low income levels and high living costs. This economic disparity has led to various social and economic downturns in the state.”

“Sabahans, whether in rural or urban areas, grapple with poverty and financial hardship, making the government’s self-serving narratives nothing short of frustrating.”

“The people demand transparency and accountability from the GRS government. We need a detailed, comprehensive report on all economic sectors, outlining their growth and contributions. We want to know where the real growth areas in Sabah’s economy lie. If exports are increasing, where is the wealth? How much are we spending on importing food? If the GDP is on the rise, why does Sabah remain among the poorest states? If FDIs are flowing in, why does unemployment persist, and what benefits do these investments bring? The local economy lacks a multiplier effect that should accompany such financial injections.”

Sabah deserves better than rhetoric and self-praise. It’s time for the government to identify and address root causes of pressing issues that plague our state. The time for action and transparency is long overdue.

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