The number one state for tourism in Malaysia is counting on more tourist arrivals and dynamic government policies to stimulate its stagnant property market.

My GRAB driver in Kota Kinabalu, a West Malaysian who is based in Sabah for the last 20 years due to her husband’s work, told me that everything in Sabah costs more than in West Malaysia except for GRAB rides and seafood. The rides are practically RM5 to every destination in downtown Kota Kinabalu (aka KK, Sabah’s capital city) and between RM7- RM11 to the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

I had to agree with her – coming from West Malaysia, I noticed the gap in pricing much more acutely. I could have had everything cheaper in Peninsular Malaysia; even Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur has many coffee shops that sell food and drinks cheaper than in KK.

Thus I empathise with the residents; they have among the lowest income per capita among all the states in Malaysia yet prices are higher than the rest of the country due to the need to import many items from West Malaysia including necessities like construction materials such as tiles, bathroom fittings, roofing and machines, stationery, IT and other technical equipment, etc. Due to its relative remote location on the island of Borneo, transportation charges have added up to the prices tremendously.

By all accounts, Sabah is a rich state due to its abundance of natural resources and attractions. Surrounded by a beautiful coastline, it is also rich in flora and fauna, mountains, rivers and even has Malaysia’s only Friesian cattle farm producing milk for local consumption.

Sabah is also home to the highest peak in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) and its islands such as Sipadan and Mabul have been rated as some of the top diving spots in the world.

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