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Deputy Chief Minister cum Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau (seated, second right) and STIA Senior Advisor Datuk James Hwong witnessing the signing ceremony of the association’s central committee appointment plaque. Photo SNT/Mohd Adam Arinin

KOTA KINABALU: Both downstream and upstream timber industry players in the state have been urged to synergise its activities to tap into the huge economic potential of the downstream processing sector and boost the state’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau said he noticed not everyone smiled when the State government announced the imposition of temporary ban on logs export, recently.

“There should not be disharmony, for example when we banned the export of logs only one side is smiling … we want everyone to smile,” he said at the installation ceremony of the Sabah Timber Industries Association (STIA) office bearers for 2018-2020 term at Promenade Hotel here, today.

Tangau who is also Minister of Industry and Trade said the ban was a quick remedy to overcome the shortage of material for the downstream activities.

“At the same time we are revisiting the strategies and actionable initiatives to address the issues of the timber industries apart from taking a more holistic approach for a flourishing timber industry that is aligned to the State government’s aspirations,” he said.

As a long-term measure, he said a new policy on Sabah timber industry was also being formulated through the initiation of a Task Force by his ministry that would see involvement from all representing the upstream and downstream players including STIA.

To illustrate why it is important for Sabah to push for downstream timber processing, he gave a comparison of the GDP income per capita between Singapore, which is currently about USD55,000 (RM225,610) and Sabah’s GDP income per capita, which is about USD5,000 (RM20,510).

“Why the huge gap? Why Singapore can go very far?” he asked while adding that the city-state did not have any natural resources but its economy was booming due to its strategic location allowing it to become the economic global hub in this region.

In this respect, he said value-added timber products has huge potential in increasing the industry’s contribution to the state’s GDP.

“In Peninsular Malaysia where export of logs have been banned for quite some time already, the processed timber sector value is RM22 billion and the furniture segment alone is worth RM6 billion.

“Imagine that, while in Sabah the whole timber processing industry only contributes RM6 billion to the state’s GDP,” he said.

Towards this end, he assured the upstream and downstream timber industry players that the government would be working closely with them to ensure the state’s development plan for the wood industry will be successfully implemented.

He also assured that the State government will be improving key economic enablers, which among those identified were logistics especially port operations.

“We want to develop a 24-hour port operations in the East Coast districts like Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau. This is not just for timber, but for all natural resources like rubber, palm oil and also oil and gas export.

“In the recent State Assembly sitting, the State government was prepared to issue license to the Lahad Datu Palm Oil Industry Cluster (POIC) to allow a 24-hour operations of its port,” said Tangau

Since Sabah is not located on the main shipping route, he said enhancing ports efficiency and boosting volume of outbound cargoes are crucial steps to be taken to attract international shipping liners to come.

Going forward, he said it was imperative to have a strong team of the downstream and upstream players working together in articulating policies and realigning with the aspirations of the new State Government.-SabahNewsToday


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