Logical way forward is to place BIMP-EAGA office at Sabah Trade Centre, says former CM

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Trade Centre should be used as the state office of Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines -East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), says former chief minister Datuk Seri Yong Teck Lee

He said that there was no reason for the building to be redeveloped as there was already a "concrete" proposal to refurbish the building and use it as the Sabah BIMP-EAGA office.

"The most logical way forward for the Sabah Trade Centre is to approve the long standing application by Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED) and Office of the Special Envoy of BIMP-EAGA," said Yong who is Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president.

"This means that the TAED and BIMP-EAGA Envoy office already has a concrete plan," he said.

Yong was responding to the ongoing controversy over the future of the building under the state Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Minister Datuk Phoong Jin Zhe.

Phoong had said that there was a need for redevelopment of the building to create a modern and effective trade hub for local small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs).

Yong and Usno president Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia questioned the redevelopment of the STC building after Phoong initially said that the building sitting on prime land in Likas did not have an occupation certificate. It needed to be redeveloped.

Pandikar, who is Sabah's BIMP EAGA envoy and also TAED chairman, said that he had spoken to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor about placing the BIMP-EAGA office at the STC building with TAED carrying out the rehabilitation.

"The belated explanation by the Industrial Development Ministry on the fate of the Sabah Trade Centre shows that the lack of an OC (occupational certificate) is not a stumbling block to the operation at Sabah Trade Centre.

"The Ministry's full explanation made no mention of an OC and did not address any of the valid questions raised by the current management (MB Managers and Consultants)," Yong said in a statement Saturday (Feb 24).

Yong said both the TAED and BIMP-EAGA Envoy office is headed by an experienced former Speaker of Parliament, Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, who reports directly to the Chief Minister.

"As an active partner in the BIMP-EAGA region, Sabah needs to have its own Facilitation Office and centre to showcase Sabah's economic progress, including to host expositions as a strategy to promote trade that is beneficial to Sabah.

"What better place than the Sabah Trade Centre which can be made ready in a matter of months at minimal cost," Yong said.

Both Yong and Pandikar had previously said that the state government should not redevelop the building just because it did not have an OC.

Phoong in his statement earlier said that the state made a decision not to sell the land and they were now looking for a fresh start and the opportunity to reimage the STC as a vibrant hub for SMEs and trade activities.

“We are not selling the STC or the land to any private sector,” he said referring to the government's decision to withdraw from the sale of the land made a decade ago.

He said the ministry welcomed the recent idea from Sabah SME Association president Datuk Foo Ngee Kee, who proposed to rejuvenate the STC into an SME hub.

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