Half a century after the Cobbold Commission marked the first step towards the union of Malaysia and Sabah, Prime Minister Najib has reiterated Sabah’s important contribution to the Malaysian economy and the Government’s commitment to the state’s welfare.
Through tourism and the palm oil industry, Sabah continues to play a central role in Malaysia’s economic growth. In turn, the government has prioritized the state’s development by investing RM 3 billion in National Key Result Areas (NKRA) under the Government’s Economic Transformation Programme.
Thanks to the Rural Infrastructure NKRA initiative, roads in East Malaysia already make up over half of national road length – facilitating travel for Saba’s 3.2 million people and promoting education, jobs and trade. Rural families have also benefitted as thousands of houses have been built or restored and fitted with basic amenities – like water and electricity – to improve quality of life.
Sabah’s development has taken place in parallel with environmental conservation, and Sabah’s RM 5 billion tourism industry relies on protected marine parks and forest reserves to attract international visitors from all over the world. Among the most renowned, Kinabalu National Park was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status because of its richness in plant diversity combined with its unique geological conditions, while Tabin Wildlife reserve covers over 120,000 hectares and is home to the Bornean elephant and the Bornean clouded leopard.
However, what the 845,910 foreign tourists that visited Sabah last year are probably not aware of is the role the palm oil industry has played – and continues to play – in promoting and funding conservation efforts in Sabah. Through the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund (MPOWCF), an initial grant of RM10 million was provided to finance conservation projects. In collaboration with Sabah Forestry Department (SFD), the Borneo Conservation Trust, NGO HUTAN as well as Tabin Wildlife Santuary and others, MPOWCF has helped to fund jungle patrols to enforce wildlife protection in forest reserves bordering oil palm plantation; surveys of orangutan population; and the production of educational materials on wildlife conservation. This is just one example of the industry leading the way forward in conservation and biodiversity.
Just as Prime Minister Najib described the status of Sabah in Malaysia as a ‘win win situation’, Sabah’s cultivation of oil palm alongside forest preservation and wildlife conservation has been a win-win; delivering, growth, jobs and prosperity while preserving the environment and Sabah’s rich plant and animal diversity.