KOTA KINABALU: Breaking a Sabah timber cartel that has been monopolised by one party for more than a decade is among the key factors for the banning of log exports by the newly minted Parti Warisan Sabah-led government.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal told the state assembly that the timber “extraction, buyer and seller” were all one group that has monopolised the trade that brought little direct spin-offs to the people and the economy.
“We need to change it, so that more people can benefit from our natural resources,” Shafie said when answering a question from Datuk Limus Jury on the immediate ban by the new state government since taking over on May 12.
Shafie explained that the ban was part of a comprehensive revamp of the state’s forestry sector that needs to relook at timber extraction licensing as well as ensure better supply of logs for the development of the downstream timber industry.
“There is no time frame for the log export ban, a decision will be made in due time,” he said, adding that there was a downward trend in earnings from timber royalties from some RM180mil in 2016 to RM150mil in 2017.
As such, he said it was important to encourage local downstream wood-based industries to create more jobs for locals as well as ensure all licenced concession holders abided by the conditions of the licence.
The issue of logging took nearly half-hour of the Question Hour at the first sitting of the 15th Sabah Assembly that was officially opened by Yang Di Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin on Monday.
Questions on flood problems in various parts of Sabah caught the attention of the house as well, where assemblymen asked for answers on plans to resolve flooding in various flood prone areas across the state.
Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Datuk Junz Wong said various flood mitigation programmes were being drawn up for the state, with some already starting to be implemented.
He said flood prone areas including Kota Kinabalu, Kota Belud, Penampang, Putatan and Tawau were long-standing issues that needed immediate intervention.
“Our immediate focus is to restructure drainage and irrigation systems and deepen rivers,” he said.
Earlier, he said the state government would need almost RM3bil to solve flood problems in Sabah.
He also said that previously, a total of RM512.05mil was approved in the 11th Malaysia Plan for this purpose.