Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the Donggongon Tamu in Penampang during a visit to Sabah last month. With him is Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman (right). FILE PIC

I WAS deeply honoured when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak spent some time with the people in Sabah recently. He met traders, sampled local delicacies, fruits, cakes and saw for himself the unique weekly market, or tamu, in Donggongon, Penampang. The next day, he was in Nabawan to meet the people and to take a closer look at the District Health Clinic, built by the government to serve the rural community. On top of that, he also announced allocations and pledges for the people during his visits, assuring them that they would not be neglected.

On my part, I updated him on the progress of development projects across the state, as well as briefed him on plans being laid out during his two-day visit. In each visit, Najib arrives as a leader and a friend who wishes for only the best for Malaysians, no matter how well business was for the traders at Donggongon Tamu.

This is an example of how strong ties between the state and federal governments can bring good for Sabah and Malaysia. As Barisan Nasional leaders, we share a common goal that places the interest of the people first as this was our pledge when we were given the mandate to run the nation and the state in the last election. This is how we have pushed for more developments in the state, through constant one-on-one discussions and consultations based on the needs of the people. Since taking over the helm of the state administration, I have challenged myself to always feel the pulse of the people, which is why for the last 15 years, I have been visiting as many districts as I can, bringing along ministers and senior government officers from state and federal levels, so that decisions can be made on the spot. I also make it a point to listen to community leaders, the people and officers of various agencies, who are my eyes and ears on the ground.

Last year, we achieved the milestones we set for ourselves in the tourism industry. Tourist arrivals went up by 7.5 per cent from 3.4 million to 3.7 million, and so did the tourism receipts, which rose from RM7.2 billion to a projected sum of RM7.7 billion.

Things are moving in our favour in Sabah and we need to keep the pace going. All this came despite the challenges we faced a few years ago, but we took matters in our stride, set our plans diligently and sought help where necessary from our federal counterparts. They, too, understood our issues — such as security, transportation, flight links and regulatory bureaucracies — and helped us sort matters out.

For the 2018 Sabah Budget, themed “Strengthening the Economy, Prospering the People”, we have allocated a sum of RM4.104 billion, and this comes with a surplus of RM64.89 million. This is our fourth consecutive surplus budget.

This is also the 16th consecutive year the state’s consolidated revenue account recorded a surplus. This shows the state government has been implementing effective and efficient financial management since 2001. Projects, such as the Pan-Borneo Highway and Mini Estet Sejahtera, and major oil and gas developments in Kimanis, such as the Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal, Kimanis Power Plant and the Sabah Ammonia and Urea project in Sipitang, would have not been a possible without strong ties between the state and federal governments.

We need to continue striving and persevering through challenges and avoid believing in lies, empty promises and scepticism from detractors. These are the people who would belittle what has been achieved or hoodwink the person into believing that nothing has been done. The artful manipulation of the social media by those with vested interest has, unfortunately, succeeded in altering the perception of some. The people must open their eyes and ears and not be easily swept away by fear tactics and political war cries that could divide the people of this nation. This is not the way forward as we aspire to be something bigger and better.

We will be celebrating the Chinese New Year soon and with a promising year ahead of us, with more progress coming our way in the state as well as vibrant economic growth in the offing, I wish to say Kong Hee Fatt Choy to all.

The writer is Sabah chief minister

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