KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 1 — PAS will not lose Kelantan for “lack of economic development” at the next general elections, Mentri Besar Datuk Ahmad Yaakob said.
In response to a report by Straits Times (ST) last week, Ahmad said the Singapore daily’s analysis was “inaccurate”, adding that the Islamic party’s fortress was improving economically.
“Compared to 10 years ago, Kelantan’s economy is doing a lot better. It’s quite difficult to calculate based on percentage but I believe we are number eight in the country when it comes to economic development,” he told Malay Mail Online yesterday when contacted for comment.
The Statistics Department recorded that Kelantan was one of the eight states that outpaced national economic growth of 4.2 per cent last year.
According to government data, the northeastern state grew by 4.8 per cent, equivalent to Selangor’s growth and greater than Sabah at 4.7 per cent and Melaka at 4.5 per cent.
The service sector dominated Kelantan’s economic activity with a contribution of 66.4 per cent. This makes Kelantan the third state with the strongest service sector after Kuala Lumpur (87.7 per cent) and Labuan (76.2 per cent), outpacing even Selangor at 60.1 per cent.
However, despite the strong economic growth, Kelantan’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita over the past two years is still the lowest in the country. Last year, its GDP was RM12,812, a slight increase from RM12,087 in 2015.
Ahmad also disagreed with the Singapore newspaper’s observation that economic activity is concentrated in its capital Kota Baru while development elsewhere in the state was neglected.
“We have educational facilities like Universiti Malaysia Kelantan which has campuses not just in Kota Baru but also in Bachok and Jeli. This triggers not just the service sector but also helps improve our property sector.
“There have also been a lot more supermarkets and malls opening up in Kota Baru and other areas. Don’t underestimate Kelantanese. We have a very strong purchasing power,” he said.
Ahmad acknowledged that its former members now leading Amanah have been campaigning to discredit PAS.
He said the state machinery has its own campaign to “correct public perception” on the issues that Amanah raised, but did not elaborate.
He expressed confidence that PAS will win in an expected three-way contest against Amanah and Umno.
The anchor party of the Barisan Nasional coalition is also redoubling efforts to take back Kelantan by pouring in infrastructure aid to develop the more rural areas of the state ahead of the 14th general election that must be called by August 2018.
“We can maintain and defend Kelantan. We are not worried about three-corner fights or splinter parties. Our target and focus is the young voters. And we are working hard to get them,” Ahmad said.