4 major economic challenges yet the state revenue jumped 300%
After the dust over the 2018 Sabah State Budget has settled, we can see that the state oppositions are disorientated and simply do not have any bonafide excuse to object to the budget tabled by Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman. On top of that, the recent announcement by the National Audit Department awarding a "Very Good" rating to the Sabah State Government for managing their finances and projects is even more vexatious to the opposition.
Let's put aside the nitty-bitty of the budget in detail because some of the contents are too technical and some we just do not have enough information to comment anything more than what TS Musa has tabled. However, there are some basic things for us to see whether the budget tabled by TS Musa hold any water.
In general, there are three parameters that we can use to judge if Sabah Chief Minister TS Musa Aman has been a good administrator and has been prudent with our tax dollars. They are;
1. Whether State's revenue has increased over the years?
2. Whether State's reserve has increased during TS Musa Aman's CM tenure?
3. Whether the annual development budget has been spent prudently?
To do this, we need to look back at the financial records since TS Musa took office.
History never lies, and historical records are always a good reference and yardstick to measure the things that we do. We can use comparison as a tool to examine the recent 2018 Sabah State Budget against the past financial records of Sabah government to determine whether TS Musa has done a good job or otherwise.
Income is everything to a government and without it or the shortage of it will directly affect all spending including development to the state. During the table of the 2002 Sabah State Budget on 1st November 2001 by Tan Sri Musa Aman when he was the Finance Minister of Sabah, the projected state revenue for 2002 was only RM1,413 million. Although it was a 14.8% increase compared to the previous year 2001 due to the recovery of the economy rebounded from the Asia Economy Crisis in 1998 (here is the link to the budget speech of TS Musa) it is dwarfed in comparison to the projected revenue in 2018. <https://www.sabah.gov.my/cms/sites/default/files/BudgetSpeech/2002StateBudgetSpeech.htm>
This jump in revenue is not easy to achieve considering the kind of obstacles that TS Musa Aman has gone through and the challenges he has to face over the years. Since TS Musa Aman became the 12th Sabah Chief Minister, he encountered numerous obstacles that were of global proportion and beyond his control.
Behind the backdrop of the second Gulf War, there were at least four major world events happened that have impacted tremendously throughout the world and created chaos in the region since TS Musa became Chief Minister, and they are;
- SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) happened on the first year of TS Musa chief ministership that saw almost a total shut down of Sabah tourism industry for as long as a year. All flights from Hong Kong to Sabah were canceled for a duration of almost 6 months, and Malaysia Airlines alone had to canceled 716 flights to Sabah during this epidemic. The scenario back then can only be described as a doomsday scenario. <https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/15149>
- The escalation of fuel price since 2005. Although this is a worldwide phenomenon it affected the local economy in many areas as well; the continuous fall of tourist number is one and the escalating cost of living and doing business is another one that TS Musa's administration has to deal with.
- The Subprime crisis in 2008/2009, and the effects that linger till 2011 was another major world economy event that confronted Sabah state government. This worldwide economic crisis has caused a drop in export, drop in tourist spending, and created a pessimistic atmosphere among the public for many years after that.
- The Sulu invasion and the kidnapping cases by Abu Syaff terrorist from 2013 to 2015 is another factor that affects the local economy.
Despite all the negativities during TS Musa's tenure, the state revenue continues to grow and in the recent budget that he has tabled, the revenue for 2018 is projected at RM4,169 million. That is a tremendous growth of nearly 300% despite all the major challenges stated above that TS Musa has to deal with.
The results today speak for itself and the tremendous growth in State revenue prove beyond doubt that we have a solid state government in Sabah.
Tzu P Wong