SABAH, Sarawak and Labuan’s exemption from the ship­ping pol­icy from June 1 will have a pos­i­tive im­pact on in­dus­tries and the cost of liv­ing in the three ter­ri­to­ries. Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak, in an­nounc­ing the good news, says ‘ris­ing prices o

New Straits Times - - Front Page - » RE­PORTS BY OLIVIA MIWIL AND GOH PEI PEI

APROTECTIONIST pol­icy, of­ten claimed to be the rea­son why prices of goods are higher in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, will be re­moved next month.

Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak yes­ter­day an­nounced that the cab­o­tage pol­icy would be ex­empted on cargo ves­sels from ports in Penin­su­lar Malaysia to the two states and the Fed­eral Ter­ri­tory from June 1.

“Ris­ing prices of goods will no longer be an is­sue, as we have heard what the peo­ple have been call­ing for,” he said dur­ing the Ek­spresi Ne­garaku pro­gramme here.

“The de­ci­sion was made based on rec­om­men­da­tions made by the state gov­ern­ments and Barisan Na­sional lead­ers,” he said, stress­ing that “the govern­ment lis­tens to the peo­ple”.

The exemption, how­ever, does not cover ships op­er­at­ing be­tween Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, Na­jib said.

In re­sponse to the an­nounce­ment, Sarawak Chief Min­is­ter Datuk Amar Abang Jo­hari Abang Openg said it would have far­reach­ing im­pact in ad­dress­ing the higher cost of liv­ing in the state.

The exemption would re­duce the prices of goods in Sarawak and elim­i­nate the dou­ble-han­dling process, Abang Jo­hari said.

“Hope­fully, it will help us fur­ther lessen the bur­den on con­sumers and ad­dress the ris­ing cost of liv­ing.”

Some par­ties, he said, were un­happy with the pre­vi­ous poli­cies as they in­creased the ship­ping cost due to dou­ble-han­dling.

“So, we are glad the prime min­is­ter an­nounced this de­ci­sion,” he said af­ter a pre-state leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly (Pre-DUN) meet­ing, held at Parti Pe­saka Bu­mi­put­era Ber­satu’s head­quar­ters in Kuching.

Sabah Spe­cial Tasks Min­is­ter Datuk Teo Chee Kang said for dis­crep­an­cies in prices of goods to be re­solved, it was vi­tal to up­grade and pro­mote the Sa­pan­gar Bay Con­tainer Port in Kota Kin­a­balu into a re­gional tran­ship­ment hub.

“The Fed­eral Govern­ment has ap­proved RM1.027 bil­lion for the up­grad­ing of Sa­pan­gar Port,” he said, adding that more for­eign and lo­cal ships could be at­tracted if the vol­ume of cargo could be in­creased.

“If the ships are leav­ing our ports with empty or half empty con­tain­ers, I can­not see how freight charges would be re­duced.”

Teo said freight charges may also be low­ered in the long-run be­cause with the exemption, lo­cal shiplines would com­pete with for­eign ves­sels in do­mes­tic routes.

This would likely hap­pen as for­eign ves­sels would be per­mit­ted to pick up cargo from Sabah and ship them to other ports in the coun­try with the exemption, he said.

Teo said the de­ci­sion hon­oured the In­ter-Gov­ern­men­tal Re­port that was pre­pared be­fore the for­ma­tion of Malaysia as the Cab­o­tage Pol­icy was seen as an in­ter­fer­ence in the ship­ping pol­icy in Sabah when it was im­ple­mented some 30 years ago.

The pol­icy has been a key is­sue in the two states, with many de­scrib­ing it as un­fair and dis­crim­i­na­tory as it had con­trib­uted to the in­crease in prices of goods trans­ported by sea.

Busi­ness op­er­a­tors from Sabah and Sarawak had claimed that it not only af­fected ex­porters, but also in­creased the cost of im­port­ing prod­ucts.

The Sabah and Sarawak gov­ern­ments had been in dis­cus­sions with the Fed­eral Govern­ment to re­view the con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy, which had, over the years, caused dis­cord be­tween ship­pers in Sabah and Sarawak and lo­cal shipown­ers. Page 1 pic: A ves­sel docked at the Sa­pan­gar Bay Con­tainer Port in Kota Kin­a­balu.

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