Najib has launched a new National Timber Policy, which hopes to double timber exports to RM53 billion by 2020.
In line with this, the government has just given out RM30.3 million in loan instalments to eight companies under the Forest Plantation Development Programme. These include companies such as Shin Yang, which is one of the largest natural timber concessionaires in Sarawak with over a million hectares.
Interesting concept, this: public money lent to timber companies at low interest rates, no doubt.
These loans are for tree plantations – producing not timber, but acacia and related or similar species. (One dreads to think what could happen if a drought occurs as a result of climate change, when these plantations could turn into tinderboxes.) Such tree plantations have created much misery among bumiputera communities in Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula.
Some of these companies, having already logged natural timber in their concession areas unsustainably, are now engaged in total forest clearance of over hundreds of thousands of hectares for so-called forest/timber plantations. (These companies are allowed to plant 20 per cent of the plantations with oil palm for one cycle – though some suspect it could become permanent.)
And in the midst of all this, the rights of local indigenous communities are given short shrift. What does Najib mean when he says the new timber policy will cover “bumiputra participation”? Which bumiputeras exactly? Is he referring to the bumiputera highflyers associated with the ruling parties? Or does he mean the affected Penan, Kayan, Kenyah, Iban, Kadazandusun, whose poverty rates are shockingly high and whose communities are seeing whatever little they have being taken away from them.
All in the name of development and “bumiputera participation”… How ironic!
This report from the Business Times:
Timber policy targets RM53b exports
By Zaidi Isham Ismail
MALAYSIA has unveiled its first-ever timber policy, which aims to more than double exports to over RM53 billion by 2020.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the National Timber Industry Policy will chart the development of Malaysia’s wood-based sector from now until 2020, covering the entire spectrum and value chain of the industry.
“The industry has consistently contributed over RM20 billion annually to the national economy and provides employment for 300,000 workers.
“Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the timber industry to continue being innovative, creative and competitive,” Najib said in his speech at the launch of the policy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The policy will cover seven thrusts: industry structure, raw material supply, innovation and technology, marketing and promotion, human capital development, funding and incentives, and Bumiputera participation.
Najib said that under the Third Industrial Master Plan (2006-2020), RM1.7 billion in annual investments can be expected in this sector. This brings timber investments to RM25.4 billion since the First Industrial Master Plan started in 1986.
Speaking at a press conference later, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui said the timber policy identifies measures to ensure the continued viability of Malaysia’s wood-based industry.
“The sector in 2008 contributed RM22.5 billion in export earnings from the timber and timber products, but this is expected to contract in 2009 due to a slowdown in major property projects in the US and Europe.
“We will get a more accurate picture in the first quarter of this year,” Chin said.
On another note, he said that Malaysia was due to sign the Voluntary Partnership Agreement under the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade this year.
“Negotiations are ongoing and, once we sign this agreement, the 27-member European Union is obligated to promote Malaysian timber with no questions asked,” said Chin.
Under the agreement, Malaysia will be able to ship its timber throughout the EU without having to meet additional requirements to verify its legality.
At the launch yesterday, RM30.3 million of loan installments were disbursed to eight companies under the Forest Plantation Development Programme: Hamid Sawmills, Ta Ann Plywood, Shin Yang Forestry, Immense Fleet, Tropical Position, Acacia Industries Kelantan, Pustaka KTS and Rejang Heights.
The loan is managed by the Malaysian Timber Industry Board.
Malaysia aims to produce sustainable commercial timber by establishing a 375,000ha forest plantation by 2021 to yield 5 million cu m of timber annually.
Fourteen companies have joined the programme to establish nearly 60,000ha of planted forest.
Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical logs and sawn timber. It is the second largest supplier of plywood and the tenth largest furniture maker….