Greece and Sabah like two peas in a pod

Distance does not matter when having the same mentality and living by the same habits.  This makes Greece and Sabah as close as blood siblings.  There must be some Alexander the great descendents who lost their way and end up in Sabah a long time ago.

The problem with Greece is that they have over-bloated civil service.  They have no other job to choose apart from Tourism and hospitality work.  Is Sabah any different? Oh sure we have plenty of work opportunities but Sabahans are a bunch of job choosy people, our graduate simply refuse to work in the oil palm plantation as menial labor to harvest the fruit bunch.

Then Greece and Sabah has politicians and bureaucrats who falsified economic data and painted a rosy and manageable picture while the economy is rotting away.  Tell this to the Sabah Tourism Board (STB), Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC), Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB), Lands and Survey Department, Sabah Economic Development Investment Authority (SEDIA), in short tell it to everybody in the government.  They simply say you are wrong, no basis and no justification given.  Their word is truth.

In addition to over bloated civil service, Greece the civil service is also full of corruption and not competitive.  Every government project is awarded to political cronies at hugely inflated price.  The bureaucracy is so full of rules and regulations, it is said to open a Café in Greece you have to go through at least 25 processes and every palm you pass must be greased.  Sounds familiar in Sabah ain’t it.

Sabah depends on the Federal government to give money for development.  The possibility of Sabah getting higher priority to get fundings is remote.  This is because the country is also having the same problem.  As Idris Jala has pointed out Malaysia national debt stands at RM362 billion or a whopping 57% of the country’s GDP (which is about the same amount as the GDP contribution from manufacturing and electronic sectors) and the possibility of the country going bankrupt by 2019, if subsidies are not abolished.

But abolishing subsidies may also mean that the Barisan government may be committing political suicide.  So priority for development funds will obviously be channeled more to Malaya and Sabah is of less priority.  A fix deposit has no use for money.

If Sabah is really desperate for development money, then Sabah must cut back on its civil service and the GLCs.  So for those who think that they are safe working in the government better think again, your days as civil servants are numbered.  It’s just too much for one-third of the civil service to carry the burden of the other two third who is just watching them.

But then again if the government chooses retrenchment as an option, something must be available to absorb the excess capacity.  Same as Greece, Sabah do not have industries or other source of white-collar jobs.  By letting this people loose in the street with nothing to do means we will have street demonstration every day.

Perhaps Sabah may have 7.5% sales tax on oil palm which last year Sabah manage to collect at least RM1billion from it.  Sabah may be able to stabilize the economy using this source of fund, if Sabah manage to get the full RM1 billion.  This will only be possible if Sabah can contain the incurable oil palm disease – genoderma Basal Stem Rot (BSR) outbreak throughout Sabah palm oil plantation areas.  Some even estimate 45% of the plantation areas are affected.  If we failed, then the State government is lucky to collect any revenue from this source this year.

So what are the options available to Sabah? The options are limited but they are options none the less.  However, before we start talking about options, we have to acknowledge that there is a problem and this problem is going to stay.  Then, we have to see whether the politicians and bureaucrats in Sabah is serious in addressing these problems.  Do they have the capacity and capability to overcome this problem?  Is it possible for them to carry out strategies within a given timeframe? Last but not least, if they are stuck are they willing to get help?

I would like to paraphrase one Greek Taxi driver who came back from the US to work in Greece “The politicians screwed me, I love my country but my country did not love me”, yet here we are complaining we don’t have enough qualified people because of brain drain.

So, is Sabah also going south just like Greece? You can bet your 2 cents we are already there.



About gurkahsiber
I like to read, I like to think and I like to write

9 Responses to Greece and Sabah like two peas in a pod

  1. analyst06 says:

    Hi all,
    I have been reading this blog for quiet some time now and I find the topics discussed are just as interesting. The discussion is matured and the language is fantastic. I am certainly recommending this blog to my friends.
    In this discussion however, the picture for Sabah is gloomy and rather pessimistic. Is there nothing we can do to make things better? I think this blog is apolitical, so there is no benefit given to any party government or opposition.

    • gurkahsiber says:

      I have to agree that the outlook for Sabah is gloomy and pessimistic. This is the reality, we cannot consume the government responses because all they care about is to look good, therefore the picture they painted is growing and vibrant economy. Investors however are people where information is available to them. Some investors have data that our own government do not have. The government must be truthful not only to the people but also to themselves.
      No one is going to seek food if they are not hungry (unless they are glutton). No one will seek medicine if they are not sick. Therefore, the government must be able to accept the gloomy picture and pessimistic outlook in order to seek solution for a brighter and positive outlook.

  2. kepayan10 says:

    if our civil servant is making a loss to the state,y do we need to maintain them? is it abt time to reduce the size?

    • gurkahsiber says:

      In Sabah we have no choice. The Cabotage and the open skies policies is discriminating against Sabah real economic growth. If we retrench civil servants to reduce their number and save on public expenditure, there is nothing that can absorb these excess capacity (unless they are willing to harvest the palm oil fresh fruit bunch). Sabah do not have industries or sectors that provide “white collar” jobs. All this while the government has been absorbing excess labor in the market. At the rate the Sabah economy is going, it is a question of how long can the state government sustain this charade before it structurally (not politically) collapse.
      Actually in Sabah only 1/3 is working to support the other 2/3 civil servants.
      We can try to reduce the size but where else can they go?

  3. kepayan10 says:

    how serious is this problem and is it possible for sabah to get out of this mess?

    • gurkahsiber says:

      I believe the situation is serious enough for the state government to take remedial actions. As Mervyn King of Bank of England said about debt “dealing with banking crisis was difficult enough”, “but at least there are public-sector balance sheets on to which the problem can be moved. Once you move into sovereign debt, there is no answer; there is no backstop.”
      Sabah has issued and taken up a RM544 million government bond, the revenue from palm oil sales tax is uncertain. Do the civil servants in Ministry of Finance Sabah understand the implications, do they understand public-sector balance sheet or can they tell the difference between a conventional debt and sovereign debt. If they do not understand all these, then Sabah is screwed.

  4. ularkapak says:

    Is it true that Sabah depends on Federal Government to get money for development?

    • gurkahsiber says:

      Unfortunately it is true. Look at the Sabah annual budget specifically on development its only about RM500 million per year. Our civil service cost the state about RM600 million a year. This means Sabah need to pay RM1.50 sen to get a RM1.00 product. In any business it is a loss.
      Yet the Sabah Development Corridor is expected to spent RM105 billion in a span of 18 years, this means about RM6 billion need to be spent each year. If the state can only afford RM500 million for development per year, the RM5.5 billion must come from somewhere. Often they only tell you the big amount, on the ground it is another matter. That is why the government is not releasing the list of projects to the public. This is because if they do, then the public can check the truth of their words.

  5. Pingback: AmDe Sidik » Two peas in a pod!

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