Saturday, August 15

‘RM1.5 billion spent on 4,836 RTPs’

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Uggah (left) looks on as one of his staff types on a computer keyboard prior to delivering his winding-up speech. Also seen is permanent secretary to the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, Datu Ik Pahon Joyik (centre). — Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING: The government will continue to improve infrastructure facilities in the rural areas through the implementation of people-centric Rural Transformation Programme (RTP).

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah thus said a total of RM1.54 billion had been allocated in the 2015-2017 period to implement 4,836 RTP projects in Sarawak.

“As at June 30 of this year, 3,929 projects or 81.2 per cent of the total number of projects have been completed while the remaining 907 projects are still at various stages of implementation,” he told the august House during the winding-up speech of the Ministry of Modernisation of Agriculture, Native Land and Regional Development, yesterday.

He also revealed that in 2015, 1,812 projects out of the 1,853 approved projects or 97.8 per cent of the total number had been completed. In 2016, out of 1,346 approved projects, 1,236 of them (91.8 pct) had been completed; and in 2017, out of the 1,637 approved projects, 881 projects (53.8 pct) had been completed.

“The government acknowledges there are some shortcomings in the implementation of RTP projects. The most common being the frequent changes of projects.”

To date, 2,168 projects or 45 per cent of the total 4,836 projects involved changes in project scope, cost and location.

Uggah added that the ministry was committed to transforming agriculture and rural economy into one that’s progressive and generating high income.

“This can be achieved through the adoption of modern, commercial and sustainable agricultural practices including human-centric, inclusiveness and balanced development.

“The primary objectives of my ministry are to eradicate the remnant of rural poverty; increase the income level of rural farmers; attract youth to agriculture sector; and make Sarawak a net exporter of food.”

The biggest challenge, he added was to eradicate rural poverty, which decreased from 1.6 per cent in 2014 to 1.1 per cent in 2016.

“The (decreasing) figure is proof that the government’s anti- poverty programme is a success story. We have reduced poverty rate from 59 per cent in 1970 to what it is today.”

Uggah also told the august House that the monthly household income in the rural areas had increased by 4.4 per cent yearly from RM3,387 in 2014 to RM3,695 in 2016.

“The previous BN government at federal level introduced the 1-Azam programme as one of efforts to fight poverty.

“Last year, the Department of Agriculture (Sarawak) assisted 90 households under 1-AZAM with an allocation of RM711,900,” he said.

Uggah is, however, not certain whether the new federal PH minister will continue the (1-AZAM) programme. If it’s discontinued he said his ministry would consider bidding for funds from the (Sarawak) government to undertake this poverty eradication programme.

On the oil palm industry in Sarawak, Uggah said it’s largely a private sector-driven.

“The private sector is now the largest contributor in terms of hectarage, contributing 74 per cent (1,148,309ha) from the total acreage of 1.56 million hectares as at Dec 31, 2017.

“The government, through various land development agencies such as Salcra and Felcra contributed 7 per cent (108,956ha) while joint-venture companies under LCDA contributed 5.6 per cent (86,431ha). The independent smallholders contribute 13 per cent (212,142ha),” he said.

The biggest challenge for the industry, Uggah said, was to introduce the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme among smallholders to comply with international standards and environmental requirements.

“As of March this year, a total of 728 independent smallholders with a total area of 4,071ha have been certified under MSPO.”

The Department of Agriculture (DoA) has introduced oil palm smallholders planting schemes under the Socio-Economic Transformation Programme (SETP) in 2017.

“To date, a total of 1,464ha have been approved for planting which involves 758 participants.

“The oil palm industry in Sarawak is becoming very popular among smallholders as it is able to generate an average monthly income of RM1,000 per hectare.

On rubber, Uggah said DoA had implemented rubber planting programme since the 7MP, which resulted in 57,312ha being planted with high-yielding clones involving 20,768 participants at a total cost of RM544 million.

“From the total acreage, 30,149 hectares are tapable. This programme will be continued,” he said.

Uggah also said that most rubber holdings were now too old and no longer productive, driving the export value for rubber products in Sarawak downward from RM265.7 million in 2012 to only RM102.86 million in 2017.

On coconut, Uggah said that since 2016, RM20.5 million had been spent on coconut development programme covering an area of 1,765ha involving 1,409 farmers.

Touching on pepper industry, Uggah said a socio-economic transformation programme (SETP) was introduced in 2017 involving 6,000 participants on a 600ha site at a total cost of RM15.6 million.

On another subject, Uggah said a total of 97 E-Kasih participants had been assisted under SETP for Edible Bird Nest (EBN) production.

Each participant is given assistance of RM20,000 for the construction of bird’s houses and the Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (DVS) is monitoring the progress of the programme.

Uggah talked on many other industries and government initiatives in his 61-page speech that took him almost one hour to deliver.