Interview: Musa Aman

How could the federal government’s decision to possibly devolve power to Sabah help the state’s development plans in the future?

MUSA AMAN: It was timely when the prime minister announced the devolution of power to the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Malaysia Day in 2015. It not only clearly demonstrates the federal government’s confidence in the state governments, but also gives them significant roles in their own development. Greater control and allowing more decision-making powers at the state level, particularly in rural development projects, would surely help in expediting the planning and implementation process.

Currently, we are working on establishing a committee comprising representatives from both the federal and state governments, which includes the states secretaries. One of the ideas outlined during the announcement by the prime minister was having 90% of the teachers recruited in these states be locals from Sabah and Sarawak, and to have this plan implemented within the next three years.

Given recent market uncertainty, what is Sabah’s long-term strategy for its oil and gas sector?

AMAN: The state government envisions Sabah being an active player in the entire oil and gas value chain, from exploration and production to refineries, petrochemicals and storage. Sabah boasts massive deep-water potential, and is moving towards becoming the region’s most important exploration and production centre. To date, Sabah has 12 oil fields and four gas fields in production, while 41 oil fields and 47 gas fields have been discovered since August 2014.

The state government recognises the vast potential of this industry. Under current conditions, the state government will endeavour to enhance Sabah’s position in the oil and gas industry, particularly in terms of downstream activities. This sector is recognised as a key area of focus under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC), with dedicated incentives available. Investors are eligible for full tax exemptions on statutory income for 10 years, or an investment tax allowance of 100% of qualifying capital expenditure for five years, which can be offset against 100% of statutory income, subject to qualifying activities under the Promotion of Investments Act 1986. The state government established the Sipitang Oil and Gas Industrial Park (SOGIP) dedicated to oil and gas downstream activities. SOGIP is positioned to be an agro-based petrochemicals complex, used to capture a greater portion of downstream activities for the oil and gas sector, as well as related heavy industries adding to the value chain.

How effective have enhanced security measures on Sabah’s east coast been?

AMAN:  The east coast of Sabah has been effectively transformed into a region where our security forces have both full control and the capability to protect our citizens and tourists.

Encouraging and positive occupancy rates in the island resorts situated there have indicated high levels of confidence among tourists, who know that their security is in the good and capable hands of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, an authoritative body that oversees the security of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) covering Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Tawau and Semporna.

This has been a joint effort made by ESSCOM together with various security and defence agencies, including the Royal Malaysian Police, Malaysian Armed Forces and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in ESSZONE in order to maintain the security and well-being of our citizens and visitors. The Malaysian government has accorded high priority and vigilance to ensure the continuing security and safety of our citizens and visitors to Malaysia.