IT WAS a rare occasion for many Sabahans, seeing more than 600 chief executives converging in Kota Kinabalu for a three-day conference.
Even the taxi men could not believe their eyes, used as they were to seeing men in black suits. All the major hotels were running at full capacity, and eateries enjoyed brisk business these past few days.
Sabahans liked what they saw. To them these were signs of change, and they really want to see more economic activity in their state.
For now, tourism and oil and gas are the major earners of revenues for the state, which also relies on federal funding for its development.
“This is one of the best things that the state government has done for Sabah. The conference has put us on the world map, and I now can feel some sort of vibrancy,” said Harapan Nusantara Sdn Bhd director Affendi Tun Fuad Stephens, who is also a shareholder of Maxis Communications Bhd and of All Astro Asia Networks Bhd.
“All this bodes well for Sabah; this is the way to attract foreign investors. The state is looking for investments,” he said.
The three-day International CEO conference, organised by Yayasan Sabah, attracted more than 600 CEOs from 31 countries. An exhibition to showcase Sabah’s companies and products was held concurrently.
Even the elusive boss of Rimbunan, Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King, one of Malaysia’s richest men, was present for the three days.
Many also attended the event in the hope of getting investment opportunities and tips on Sabah.
Australia’s Northern Territory Government director of international business Quentin Kilian found the conference useful, not just for networking but also for the various business opportunities.
“There were a lot of discussions with regard to big economies, such as Japan, China and India. We are a small economy but it is interesting to learn how we can fit in, and what role we can play, as we have our niche in the services sector and knowledge industry,” he said.
Nadicorp Holdings Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Nadzmi Saleh Mohd Salleh, who presented a paper on his experience in restructuring Mara Holdings, found Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s speech delivered by Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, to be an “eye-opener.”
“The speech is very relevant in view of the job of a CEO being very challenging these days,” he said, adding that he also shared the view that the private sector should be the driver of future growth.
Sabahans are hoping that this conference will be the beginning of many more business activities in the state. They want to see greater economic activities, like in Peninsular Malaysia.
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