KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 — Caretaker chief minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal today said the current economic downturn in Sabah is not his fault, but had been building up over the past 10 years since before he took office.

In response to critics, the Warisan president who was first appointed chief minister two years ago said he had to weather political challenges on top of trying to revive Sabah’s economy that has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ve faced a lot of challenges in trying to develop the State. We’ve had two years and in that we have had to face not only Covid-19 but also ‘Covid politics’.

“At least I’ve managed to open factories and bring up the agriculture industry providing jobs. We have a blueprint that will provide more jobs for Sabahans,” he told reporters after a land title handing over ceremony in Kudat.

He pointed out that Sabah had been declared the poorest state in Malaysia since 2010, and in subsequent years has seen many of its people migrate to the peninsula and to Singapore in search of jobs.

“I wasn’t the chief minister then. This downturn is not because of me. Other places are also seeing businesses and hotels closing down. The entire world is facing a slump. But we cannot say just because of Covid-19 we are not doing well,” said Shafie.

He argued that most of his critics were affiliated to his political nemesis Tan Sri Musa Aman and who were no longer awarded government projects.

Shafie said he stopped awarding many projects to such people as they had their own agendas and were not serving the public interest.

“There is economic activity but the problem is his macai-macai no longer have the same business as they did before,” he said, using a derogatory term of Chinese origin meaning underling.

Shafie said he worked hard to implement economic development and investments, but claimed there was much interference.

“We have made good plans but there are a lot of interferences. The land grants, the factory producing cooking all, they all say it’s their idea,” he said.

Shafie also said the federal ruling party Bersatu was supposed to be its political partner in Sabah, but claimed to have been “backstabbed” instead in the Kimanis parliamentary by-election earlier this year.

“I thought they were sincere, but turns out they voted for Barisan, not Warisan. They only appeared to not be getting along but in fact they were working together,” he said.

Sabah is headed for the polls soon after the state legislative assembly was dissolved on July 30.