Universities Agree On Need For Economic Zone At Tawau Border

Badil Zaman with officials from the North Kalimantan side at a day-long workshop to discuss the proposed special economic zone in Tawau.

KOTA KINABALU: The critical need for the creation of “special economic zone” along the Sabah/Indonesia Kalimantan border at Serudong should be addressed with urgency as it could bring great benefits to participants of both nations.

This was the decision reached by participants of a workshop conducted by the Society Empowerment and Economic Development of Sabah (SEEDS) and attended by several people from Universiti Malaysia Sabah as well as the International Trade and Industry ministry.

From the North Kalimantan (Kaltara) side were several undergraduates from Universiti Borneo Tarakan and Sekolah Tinggi Ekonomi Indonesia.

“The discussion was productive and participants from both sides of the border shared the same idea on the critical need of such a zone in the spirit of to “prosper the border community” as well as actual trade between the two nations,” said Badil Zaman, the SEEDS chairman.

“Several ideas were put forward by participants from UMS on the needs to regulate the existing trade in the “capacities sharing” especially in the growth triangle of Tawau, Sebatik and Nunukan.”

Both participants from UBT and UMS agreed that we should also look at “border capacities building” should the Serudong and Simanggaris highway become reality, said Badil.

“This critical road link will link the Pan Borneo with the Trans Kalimantan road network which eventually will integrate a market of about 25 to 30 million population,” he pointed out.

Sabah can leverage on existing SME programes to build synergies with North Kalimantan potential and add value into Sabah initiatives to be a trans shipment hub which are provided for in ASEAN communities frame work and AFTA as well.

The workshop also proposed for a “bilateral summit” to bring together the business communities, academicians and the goverments to build one big and sustanble partnership.

According to Badil, participants from Sekolah Tinggi Ekonomi Indonesia are promoting the “Borneo” branding as a common product such as tourism, creative and ethnic products or organic products that will improve the common intrest.

Dr Yahya Ahmad Zein, the Dean at University Borneo Tarakan led the Indonesian delegation.

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This is a follow up to a series of talks and workshops, led by SEEDS in the hope that Tawau could be the focal point for economic activities with the North Kalimantan side.

Badil said both sides could look at tourism, medical and health care, education, highland products such as krayan rice and wild coffee that can be immediately be promoted and expanded.

He also said there are structural differances between the Kalimantan goverment structure with that of Sabah which has made interfacing sometimes less effecient in adressing border issues, while there also national interest or policies that need to be addressed.

The workshop agreed that North Kalimantan and Sabah has a very strong P2P relationship that needs to be developed into a sustainble B2B relationship by introducing structured bilateral trade agreement to be specificlly design to leverage on common intrest and leverages, maybe in the form of “specisl economic zone”.

Meanwhile, a MITI representative pointed out the communication gap where in Sabah there are several chambers or trade associations unlike Indonesia which has just a single entity to represent the business community in North Kalimantan such as KADIN (Kamar Dagang dan Industri Indonesia)

The MITI representative suggested the formation of a Sabah/Kalimantan Utara Business Council to have effective interfacing.