Sabah to get more investment from South Korea

Phoong (center) poses with Foo (left), Ada (second left), Benedict (right) and Ding at the roadshow.

KOTA KINABALU (July 20): The Ministry of Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship (MIDE) is looking at securing additional investment from South Korean conglomerate SK Group, said its minister Phoong Jin Zhe.

“Although I cannot disclose further details due to business considerations, what I can say is that we are trying to get them to invest more in Sabah, especially in the renewable energy and Electric Vehicle (EV) sector, in an effort to establish an EV hub here.

“I expect that we will not only be able to produce copper foils here but also entire batteries and, eventually, EV vehicles themselves.

“I know this is a big dream and I don’t want to be seen as blowing my own trumpet, so we need to take time to convince them that Sabah is worth putting more investment in,” he said when launching the Platinum Business Awards 2023 Sabah Roadshow at a hotel here on Thursday.

Phoong, who is also a Luyang assemblyman, said getting more investment from SK Group would be huge for Sabah, considering it is the second largest conglomerate in South Korea with about 186 subsidiaries worldwide.

In comparison, Sabah has about 200 government-linked agencies (GLC) spread across its districts.

“Samsung, the largest conglomerate in South Korea, has announced its 10-year plan, and Sabah is not included. Therefore, we have to focus on the next best thing.

“We need to actively put Sabah on the map and in their (SK Group’s) minds, in the hope that they will expand their investments in the state,” he said.

Phoong added that at the same time, he is also actively talking to Japanese companies and looking at securing potential investments from Japan.

“In view of the current geopolitical development such as the rivalry between the United States and China, Sabah can serve as an attractive investment option for those who wish to diversify their businesses to a safer location,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Platinum Business Awards 2023 Sabah Roadshow was organized by SME Malaysia to benchmark the business performance and quality standards of SMEs and individuals in 19 award categories by nomination and four categories by invitation.

SME Malaysia president Ding Hong Sing during the program called for government loans totaling RM40 billion with interest rates below two percent to help cash-strapped SME groups to advance their operations.

Ding explained that the transformation of SMEs in conjunction with Industrial Revolution 4.0 requires the urgent use of automation and digitalization that represent large capital outlays for many businesses.

“The existing SME grants are not enough to cover the large number of businesses in the country so we propose that the grant size for automation, digitalization and smart farming be increased to RM2 billion,” he said.

Additionally, he called for a one-to-one matching grant totaling RM2 billion specific to ESG projects for SMEs, adding that such an incentive from the government would accelerate SMEs’ own ESG spending, especially among manufacturing exporters.

Organizing chairwoman Datuk Ada Poon explained that the award platform can showcase successful companies and uncover the next generation of business leaders.

“Respecting organizations and individuals will motivate them to improve their businesses and in turn, strengthen the industry and contribute to the development of the country,” he said.

Ada added that a foreign category, the Asia Pacific Outstanding Enterprise Award, allows nominations from China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and South Korea to stimulate economic ties between Malaysian SMEs and their foreign counterparts.

Encouraging entrepreneurs in Sabah to participate in the programme, SME Sabah president Prof Datuk Foo Ngee Kee explained the benefits of enhancing branding and marketing prospects through the recognized industry award.

“Many Sabah SMEs have good products but they lack market access and recognition, thus putting them at a disadvantage.

“Being a PBA winner will improve the position of our SMEs when dealing with their bankers, suppliers and customers,” said Foo.

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