Kota Kinabalu (Mon): In another round of survey on effect of MCO to business sector in Sabah, IDS reveals an interesting finding on the fisheries sector in Sabah.
In his statement today, Executive Director of IDS, Anthony Kiob stated that Sabah has been one of the highest contributors to the national fisheries sector for many years. “From the period 2012 to 2018, total marine fish landing averaged at 208,159.34 metric tonnes per year worth an estimated RM1 billion ringgit, which indicates that Sabah is one of the main hubs for fish landing and consumption in Malaysia,” said Anthony.
“Unfortunately, although Sabah has one of the highest marine products’ landings in the country it has no control over the revenue from its marine product. The Fishery Act No. 317 (1985) gave the right to collect revenue for all marine products to the Federal Government while the State government is only given the right for inland products such as fresh water and aquaculture product. This means loss of millions of revenue for the state,” he said. Anthony said the situation was made worse when an export ban on marine products alive, dead, or fresh was enforced in 2016.
“Since 2016, a temporary periodic four-month export ban has been imposed in Sabah for selective marine products dubbed as “rakyat fishes”. The move is said to ensure sufficient local supplies for the festive seasons, but the State has consistently achieved surplus in self-sufficiency level. The ban was enforced arising from a report from the Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia Negeri Sabah (LKIM) which indicates a drop in fish landing in Sabah which was not really the case,” he said.
Anthony further elaborated that the export ban has affected about 20 companies in Sabah with a total export volume estimated at 130,000 tonnes worth some RM800 Million. “Since the implementation of the Act, Sabah’s government lose millions of possible income as it is unable to receive percentage of profit from these companies through taxes,” he said.
“The Sabah fisheries sectors continue to contribute revenue of RM700 to RM800 Million annually which currently go directly to the Federal government through LKIM. Looking at the Sabah’s Fisheries contribution to the national economy, it is high time Sabah is given the right to control its marine export and marine income. This is after all is in accordance to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63),” said Anthony.
Anthony stated that under MA63, Sabah have the respective rights over fisheries within the 200 nautical miles of the Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) of the Coastal Borneo States of Sabah and Sarawak (CSOSS). “The Fisheries Act 1985 is only applicable to the States of Malaya not to the Exclusive Economic Zone on the CSOSS. Sabah and Sarawak need to rectify this overlapping concern to revert to doing business as provided for under the MA63.
On IDS survey in relations to effect of the MCO to the fisheries sector, IDS received about 44.4% feedback from the players in the fisheries sector in Sabah, said Anthony. Respondents lamented that their income has declined by 50% because of the MCO and this is made worst by the lack of cash flow for their business due to the decline in demand from both local and international consumers, he said. Boat owners also mentioned that their fish stock has increased as they are unable to sell their catch due to halting demand. Most of their fish catch was being turned into fertilizers and dried fish to minimise loses.
“Based on respondents who provided a response, our survey reveals that an estimated 96.8% of staff has taken a ‘pay cut’, whereas 2.8% has been laid off during the MCO. Apparently, no staff was given unpaid leave. As for their crucial needs that require government’s assistance, 42.1% of respondents indicate ‘payroll’ as their most urgent needs, followed by ‘loan’ (36.8%) and ‘fish feed and fertilizer’ (10.5%).
In relation to assistance from the stimulus package provided by the government, almost all of the respondents have received various government’s stimulus package to support their businesses. A large proportion of the respondents has utilised ‘tax exemption and deferments’ (33.3%), followed by ‘15% discount on monthly utility bills’ and ‘Bank Moratorium’ (both 16.7%). There were respondents who claimed that they have yet to receive any relief benefits or still waiting for approval (11.1%).
When asked whether the government stimulus package can help ease their financial burden, 50% of the respondents are unsure, whereas 33.3% are optimistic and another 16.7% are pessimistic that the packages will be helpful for their business.
“Some of the suggestions put forward by the respondents to improve the stimulus package include provision of soft loan with zero interest rate by the state government; more subsidy and levy for foreign workers; tax exemption for the industry; exercise state executive power by taking back fuel subsidies; and simplify as well as speed up the approval of the bank’s Special Relief Facility application,” he said.