Agriculture minister should resign for failed vision — Chong
THE minister-in-charge of agriculture should be replaced after drawing flak over the government’s failed vision to turn the state into a main rice exporter after 14 years since making the project announcement.
Chong Chieng Jen (DAP-Kota Sentosa) believed it was high time for the government to appoint a new person to take charge of the state’s agriculture matters if the sitting minister no longer had the political will to realise the vision.
The opposition DAP lawmaker cited an October media report which quoted Land Development Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing as raising the need for the government to have the political will to turn Sarawak into one of the nation’s main rice bowls and self-sufficient in rice production.
This, considering the state only managed to produce about 53 per cent of the rice consumed by its population of 2.5 million.
“Recently, the Baleh assemblyman (Masing) was reported in The Borneo Post as saying there was still a lack of political will to strive for self sufficiency in rice production in Sarawak. In 2001, a local Malay newspaper reported of the government’s bold ambition to turn the state into a main rice exporter in the country.
“Fourteen years later, the minister who is Layar assemblyman was chided by his colleagues for not having the political will to realise the vision. It is timely that a fellow minister made such remark, where the minister-in-charge has no political will to implement the big project. Maybe he (Masing) is implying that a change is timely for the minister concerned,” he said when debating the chief minister’s budget speech.
The person refers to is Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu who is Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture. The 75-year-old Jabu, now Sarawak’s longest serving lawmaker, has been Layar assemblyman since 1974.
In this regards, the state DAP chairman suggested that if it was difficult for the sitting minister to modernise the whole agriculture industry, or may have become obsolete in his policy making and project implementation, maybe the time was right for the state to appoint a new person to oversee agriculture matters.
On another note, Chong touched on the predicament faced by the people due to the escalating costs of living as a result of the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) and the drop in ringgit value. He added that relief from the decrease in electricity tariffs had been neutralised by the implementation of GST.
Given that the state government has about RM27 billion in reserves, he suggested that the government introduced a free public bus services for Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri to lighten the burden of the people.
Based on an analysis for the operation of bus services in Kuching, he said the government only needed to spend about RM150 million to take over all the companies including purchasing about 200 additional new buses to provide more efficient services.
Chong said that giving subsidy to bus companies would not help the people and improve public transport in the long run. Whereas, creating an efficient public transport would bring many benefits.
In Kuching alone, at least 3,000 cars would be taken off the roads during peak hours. This would also help the people in saving on petrol and parking fees which could reach about RM250 per office worker per month.
Efficient public transport would also reduce the need to buy a car, saving a household of at least RM600 in additional expenses per month for loan installment and vehicle maintenance. Lesser cars on the roach would reduce traffic jams, lessen road maintenance and benefit the environment due to reduced fuel burning and carbon emission.