TAWAU: The Chief Minister on Saturday queried shocking irregularities discovered at Benta Wawasan, a subsidiary of a commercial arm of the state-owned Yayasan Sabah Group.
Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Mohd Shafie Apdal said the previous state government had channelled RM750 million to the company but only RM30 million remained.
“The state government gave 150,000 hectares (ha) of land to Benta Wawasan for development. Unfortunately, only 40,000 ha was utilised, with 25,000 ha planted with oil palm. What happened to the remaining 110,000 ha?” he said.
“There is no land, the money is gone and no timber, but only RM30 million was left,” he said when officiating Benta Wawasan Sdn Bhd’s corporate gathering in Ladang Seraya near here Saturday.
The chief minister did not mince his words when he said he wanted to bring change to the company and wanted it to become more transparent, accountable and successful for the benefit of the people.
Shafie added that support and commitment from all stakeholders, including the staff, was needed to revitalise the company so that the fruits of its labour could be enjoyed by all Sabahans.
He also disclosed that Sabah needs to develop the downstream sector of its commodity crops as a game changer to boost its economy.
He said the state needs a game changer and stop its dependency on commodity crops with their fluctuating prices.
According to Shafie, the state needs to explore downstream products for each commodity like cocoa, rubber and oil palm.
“We need to have changes in the state’s management of its resources and not just focusing on commodity crops. If possible, we should look into the downstream industry for rubber, to make tyres; cocoa, to produce chocolate cakes; or oil palm to manufacture palm oil using local (Sabah) brands.
“Currently, we don’t have any downstream industries even though we have many plantations. How come we don’t have any downstream factories in Sabah, especially in Tawau, but we have (downstream) factories in Shah Alam and Petaling Jaya?” he said.
Shafie said the agriculture sector was the state’s third largest revenue contributor.
“Sabah needs to upgrade its downstream activities to ensure the agriculture sector can continue to add to the state’s revenue and also create more jobs for local youth,” he said.
In order to realise this aim, Shafie said the State Agricultural and Food Industry Ministry was tasked with developing a blueprint within three months, laying out the steps and sectors that needed to be upgraded from the aspects of fisheries and agriculture.