Thursday, June 5, 2008


MALAYSIA is rich country, but, many of its people are still poor and could hardly earn enough to eat. The earning power of the people could not compete with the spiraling costs of living. In the last few months we witnessed the sharp increase of rice and other essential items in the markets. There has been shortage of food and panic buying by housewives. Price of rice has gone up 76 percent in the past five months from December last year to April this year and prices of overall food had increased by 83 percent in the last three years while oil prices had quadrupled during the last six years. A packet of 10kilograms fragrant rice previously sold at RM18-00 now is sold at RM38-00. Now, where went wrong with our economic policies?

The government had lacked foresight of what could happen in world economy and how our economic policies could affect the people in the nation. We had been so blind to what our leaders had said and there were very few politicians, especially those in the government who dared enough to critically criticize the policies of the government, so that the government be put on their toes and to improve. We talked so much of vision 2020 to make Malaysia an industrialized country. To realize this dream, the BN government had went aggressively to promote multi-billion projects, like Bakun Dam, Multi-Media Super Corridor and even sent a Malaysian to the outer space spending millions of ringgit on him.

Even though there was a need to see Malaysia to become an industrialized country, but, we also should not when we launched Vision 2020 lose sight of making Malaysia a food producing country. With Vision 2020 in mind, we had forgotten that Malaysia, which was endowed by God with fertile land had neglected to pursue a more balanced agriculture policy.

There had been so much stress on commercialized agriculture on few crops only, especially, oil palm plantations. To pursue oil palm plantations, we forgot about the development of rubber estates, cocoa, maize and rice, in which, in the next few years could be of great global demand.

In Sarawak for instance, the state has been independent for the past 45 years, but, the padi fields are yet to be properly developed to cater the needs of the state. Dr. George Chan, the Minister for Modern Agriculture, had said that a few areas in the state had been marked for huge padi plantations and that it seemed that this was a recent study of the needs of huge padi plantation in the state.

The question is why there was no padi plantation policy under taken before this showed that our government lacked the vision to foresee the problem or rising prices of rice and other foods in the local and global market.

Malaysia should learn from China about its economic policies. China in recent years had gone strongly on industrial sector, but, the “Dragon” had never lost sight of developing its agriculture sector in the interior parts of the country. This could be observed by China’s strong export of its agricultural products to neighbouring countries including Malaysia. Malaysia have huge lands still wasted and uncultivated and we hardly export any food product. Had the government at the time of launching Vision 2020 could foresee this, today Malaysia would not be very much affected by the shortage of rice and other essential goods.

Had we made use of our gift our fertile land and had a planned agriculture policy that could foresee the needs of the nation, people would not suffer that much by the recent increase of oil prices as they still could “balance off” their expenditure by able to purchase cheaper food products from the market. It is a shame that we have to import rice from war torn countries like Vietnam and Cambodia where their padi fields at one time were full of mines, making it dangerous to plough.

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