The federal government's â€˜go ahead' on the techno-economic feasibility study on the proposed Labuan-Menumbok bridge recently is seen as a new impetus that could bring a better future for the people of this duty-free island.
The RM14.31 million study, which will determine the technical feasibility and address the financial and economic appraisal of the project, is a positive sign that the project will take off the ground.
Many believe the long-awaited bridge too link the mainland of Sabah and Labuan will further transform and spur economic growth in Labuan..
In affirming the implementation of the proposed project, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Rahman Dahlan, who is the minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), had said that it would eventually be implemented due to the support both from the Sabah and federal governments.
Recapping the various news statements from economists, political leaders and Bank Negara Governor, the proposed bridge linking Labuan to mainland Sabah via Menumbok has been identified by the federal government as a key enabler to spur the economic development of the island and its surrounding regions.
Quoting Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) Governor Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim during the Labuan Industry Annual Dinner 2017, he said: "As with any other island economy, Labuan's growth prospects are very much influenced by the availability of hard and soft infrastructure which are critical enablers for better connectivity.â€
"Connectivity is also an important imperative. As Labuan can also be positioned as the â€˜halfway point' between tourism in Sabah and Sarawak, travelling time can be potentially reduced with the Pan Borneo Highway and physical connection between the island to the mainland Sabah" he said.
The same sentiment was shared by former Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and Permodalan Nasional Bhd group chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar when attended the last Labuan International Financial Lecture Series, saying that connectivity is key to keep Labuan competitive.
As Muhammad put it, the effort requires additional investment in â€˜hard and soft infrastructures', to increase the connectivity of the island to levels comparable to the world's leading international financial centres in line with Labuan's status as Malaysia's international financial centre.
Rahman in his remarks had said that the proposed bridge would be listed as the main agenda of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and Public Private Partnership Unit.
"The idea (bridge) is not new but had long been proposed. I think the time has come for us to see its feasibility and continue our efforts to decide on the bridge construction" he said.
He said the bridge was also "It is in line with the government's aspiration to develop Labuan into a smart and sustainable island city with a well-diversified economy by 2030.
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for Labuan Datuk Rozman Isli said: "We are still adamant about stressing on the bridge idea, as the construction of the bridge will not only improve the island's economy but also spur economic development in the surrounding areas.