KUCHING (Oct 1): Sarawak Timber Association (STA) welcomes the government’s decision to extend the time frame to carry forward unabsorbed business losses from seven years to 10 years, says its newly elected chairman Dato Henry Lau Lee Kong.
The extension is however still insufficient for members undertaking forest plantation due to the long gestation period with huge investment involved, he said, when presenting his report as past honorary secretary of the association during its annual general meeting 2022 here yesterday morning.
“The association, through meetings on April 1 and Aug 4, is encouraged that Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Datuk Willie Mongin, shares the same views and is supportive of the association’s appeal to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) for a longer period.
“With the initiation of a study on sectors or industries with long gestation periods that are affected by this tax law, the association is optimistic that MoF will do justice to the forest plantation industry, which is one of the important sources of raw materials for downstream timber processing,” he said.
Lau noted that Sarawak’s policy to permit recruitment of workers only from Indonesia has compounded shortage of general workers which could jeopardise Sarawak’s reputation in sustainability and continuity of production for export if left unaddressed.
He said the association is thankful that Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department (Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring) Dato Gerawat Gala had agreed to consider a pilot project to recruit 1,000 Bangladeshi workers, paving the way for recruitment from other countries.
“It is hoped that concerns highlighted by the association in the dialogue with Dato Gerawat provided the government with valuable insights on pressing issues faced by the industry for expeditious resolutions to be made to accelerate the recruitment of much-needed workers so that the industry can operate at pre-pandemic capacity,” he said.
Lau informed that for much of 2022, STA focused on capacity building to springboard the industry, which has been instrumental in fuelling sustainable growth of Sarawak’s economy post Covid-19.
He stated that the association has worked closely with Forest Department Sarawak (FDS), Department of Occupational Safety and Health Sarawak (DOSH), Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC), Malaysian Timber Council and Malaysian Timber Certification Council as well as new partners Control Union (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd in training on reduced impact logging, occupational safety and health (OSH) and greenhouse gases.
Lau said STA Training Sdn Bhd (STAT), STA’s training arm has accelerated training for skilled workforce.
“After online training for most of last year, our trainers and assessors are now conducting hands-on training and assessing in the field.
” I am pleased to report that 4,811 workmen have been trained in 12 skill sets offered by STAT. Trainers are also actively sharing with STA’s partners such as FDS newly appointed forest officers in a two-day briefing session in February 2022.”
STAT is merging training and assessing activities for better efficiency without compromising quality of training and standard of assessment.
“After discussing with director of Forest Department, the workmen will undergo theoretical and practical training, followed immediately with assessment effective today (Oct 1).”
Lau reported that in support of forest plantation development, STA funded three research and development projects on Kelampayan and Batai which are in full swing after pandemic delay with some significant results.
“For example, another new mutant Kelampayan clone, KESTAMAS-22 was produced from a candidate plus tree in March this year by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, following the discovery of the first mutant clone KESTAMAS-19 in August 2019. The new mutant clone shall be undergoing field trials soon,” he added.