IT’S time for the state to think big when it comes to industry.
International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan says, Perak, having relied on commodities for many years, is seeing many people from the ages of 20 to 60 leaving the state because there aren’t enough industries in the state.
“After joining the ministry in 2015, I realised that many people from Perak are looking for greener pastures. We have a population of 2.5mil people in the state. Of that number, there are one million between the ages of 20 and 60, but these people are going to other states and countries.
“If we just rely on commodities, we can’t create a good incomes for people. In the past, the state had tin mining, rubber and palm oil as it’s major economic engines, but now things have changed.
“You may have hundreds of hectares of palm oil but your revenue can’t compete with an electronics factory on 20ha of land, which will outdo the plantation,” he said.
Ong was speaking at an event to distribute ang pow to the needy organised by the Tow Boo Keong Temple in Ipoh last week.
He said: “These days, it’s recommended to add value to commodities. If someone just sells raw rubber, it won’t fetch much money, but if they convert raw rubber into a product, then it’s going to benefit them and the economy.”
He went on to add that he expects things to get better once the state’s gas supply network, which is expected to be completed next year, is ready.
It will cost about RM180mil to complete the gas supply system, for which Gas Malaysia has agreed to allocate RM120mil, while the remaining RM60mil will come from the state and the Federal Government.
He said many investors had considered moving to Perak before, but after realising that there was no piped-in gas supply, they decided on Penang, Selangor and Johor.
“So we need to work hard to ensure we have proper facilities to attract investors to Perak. It is not just about the piped-in gas supply, we need to improve other facilities too, like Internet speeds and so forth.
“We’ve been fighting for this project for quite a while. We missed out on good opportunities in the past because we didn’t have a gas supply,” Ong said, adding that it is his responsibility to work closely with the state government to bring high-quality manufacturing industries to Perak.
Citing optical communication products company Finisar as an example, he said the company employs about 5,000 workers and invested US$2bil (RM8.7bil) in the state.
“These are the factories and industries that we need to bring to Perak. In order to bring them in, we have to do lots of work.
“We need to build an ecosystem – logistics networks, energy supplies, research and development centres, and connectivity.
“For this to happen, in the long run, Perak needs to build its own air freight hub. Also, if there is a high-speed railway from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, why not from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok.
“It would do wonders for our economy and we would see more companies setting up their bases in the northern region.”
Ong, who is also Tanjung Malim MP said, national carmaker Proton’s relocation of its Shah Alam plant to Tanjung Malim and work on a strategic plan for the expansion of its business, will benefit the people of Perak in the near future.
“I’ve been asking for quite a while to move the Shah Alam plant to Perak, which will create 10,000 jobs.
“We have one million people of working age from Perak moving around. With this, we can at least bring 10,000 to 20,000 people back. Proton has a futuristic plan for Tanjung Malim. They want to turn it into a hub for the automotive industry.
“It will materialise in four years. With that, we will be able to attract a strong working force.
“Take Ipoh for example, only during the festive seasons do you see lots of people.
“If every day could be like that, it would be good for the people here. There will be job opportunities. A working population staying here will create demand that will boost the economy of the state.”
Ong said he hopes the new year will be a good one for Perak and he knows the Federal Government is committed to working with the state government to make Perak more prosperous.