KOTA KINABALU April 28, 2012: Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he will propose for a special cabinet committee to be formed to look into the cabotage policy and other issues related to the price disparity between Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.
He said he would bring the matter up to seek approval from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Naib Tun Razak next week.
“The paper on cabotage policy will come back next week, which is rather timely. We will propose that a committee be set up to really look beyond what has been discussed so far, to look into details, what needs to be done and taken into account,”
he said when addressing a dinner attended by leaders of various business organisations and chambers of commerce here last night.
Muhyiddin said the cabotage policy, which has long been blamed for the higher cost of living in Sabah, is of special interest to the Federal Government, just as it is to the State Government and business community in Sabah.
The policy, together with the higher prices of goods in the state, has been brought up and discussed in Parliament on many occasions, but no tangible solution has been achieved so far, he said.
“We were so engrossed in discussion throughout the dinner that we did not realize what was going on around us. I asked what’s the biggest matter of concern to the business people in Sabah, I already knew the answer but I just wanted to be sure, and the answer was cabotage policy.
“I want to assure you that the issue is also a matter of interest to us at the federal level, with members of parliament from Sabah having repeatedly brought this up for discussion.
“Minister of Transport Datuk Kong Cho Ha has even prepared a paper on the whole issue. So much has been discussed but interestingly there has been no way forward,” he said.
Muhyiddin also noted there has been contention that the glaring disparity in the prices of goods between Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia is not due to the cabotage policy but to complex economic factors.
The role of the special committee, he said, should therefore include identifying and investigating all these factors as well as proposing viable solutions that could be implemented to overcome them.
He said all parties involved, the business and the government must look beyond just the ongoing debate on cabotage policy but approach the issue from a holistic economic view.
He said although price disparity is a pure economic matter, there are some quarters who have claimed “unofficial cartel” is monopolizing the market and causing the cost of living in this part of the country to be higher.
“I don’t want to say this and make the shipping companies think that the DPM is making allegation but this is the assumption, but even if this is indeed the case, we have a competition monitoring body in place, anti-monopoly laws,” he said
Muhyiddin said attention should be given to finding tangible solutions in realizing the objective of making Sabah an economic hub for the region.
He said the country is growing and so is Sabah, and with allocation and investment pouring in, the state already has all the ingredients needed to work towards realizing this ambition.
“But it must be remembered that such a problem like this (cabotage policy) could not be solved overnight, it takes time,” he said, adding that a thorough study needs to be conducted to investigate all aspects and concerns involved and whether a solution, for example making Kota Kinabalu a regional port is even economical.
He stressed the Federal Government want to see Sabah continues to grow economically as this would translate into economic growth for the whole country.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, in his welcoming remarks earlier, said local companies in Sabah want to be given more opportunities to participate and benefit from the oil and gas industry currently being developed in the state.
“This is because of the fact that sometimes even though the investment is here in Sabah, local businesses could not take part and benefit from it.
“But we know that the DPM and PM take this matter seriously and have stressed that local communities and businesses should directly benefit from all the opportunities that are created,” he said.
Muhyiddin, in his response to this, said he agreed that the locals should be given a fair chance to seize any business opportunity arising from the oil and gas industry.
He said it is an acceptable request as Sabah has the capabilities and expertise to carry out some of the projects in this sector.
“I will take this into consideration although it is not my jurisdiction, I will keep this in mind,” he added.
"Saya berharap Perdana Menteri akan menyokong cadangan saya supaya kami dapat mengkaji isu itu secara menyeluruh.
"Jika jawatankuasa khas Kabinet dibentuk, yang saya mungkin mempengerusinya, kami akan mendapatkan kementerian dan agensi berkaitan untuk menganggotainya bagi membincangkan peraturan, undang-undang serta kos yang mungkin terlibat,"
Sabah sudah bersedia untuk memulakan misi itu memandangkan negeri berkenaan sudah mempunyai infrastruktur untuk merealisasikannya.
kerajaan pusat dan kerajaan negeri memerlukan masa untuk bekerja bersama-sama dan mengkaji keperluan dalam membangunkan Sabah sebagai hab logistik.