NEW Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal’s recent announcement on banning the export of logs is refreshing and encouraging to the downstream timber processing industry in the state.
Initiatives by our new Government to improve the situation in the country are showing the people that it has the political will and courage to reform in a big way.
Of course, there’s bound to be resistance from groups with vested interests, as has been shown in the active debate over the issue among the various timber associations in Sabah.
The ban would affect the livelihood of those who are involved in the forestry sector and greatly reduce its market value, claim the people with vested interest and the elite few who have over the years reaped huge profits, aided by malfeasance among high-ranking government officials.
Although I do not in any way benefit from this move, I strongly support the log export ban.
There is a huge international market for downstream timber products that will provide good revenue for the state if it is properly explored. At the same time, transforming raw materials into value-added products will provide more job opportunities for the locals.
Shipping out raw logs from our high-value natural forest is tantamount to selling our soul as this ancient natural forest contains a diverse biodiversity unique to the state that is irreplaceable.
Even replanting efforts will not be able to replenish the number of highly-valued species like balau and merbau. Sustainable logging is the best practice, as we can harvest mature trees for commercial purposes and provide employment for the people while protecting the forest for our future generations.
Exporting logs with few restrictions or none at all is driven by greed for fast money.
Neighbouring countries like Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar have already banned the export of logs and sawn timber as well to encourage more downstream activities and are providing incentives for companies to invest in technologically-advanced automated machinery to process their raw materials.
Our country’s unrestricted export of raw materials is unwise and a mockery of our intellectual abilities. It is ironic when end-user countries impose prohibitive import duties on our finished wood products while we are freely exporting our raw materials to them. This is akin to providing them with the ammunition to shoot us.
Our great Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad always makes thought-provoking and educational speeches, and one that has stuck in my mind is: “Lazimnya, orang orang Malaysia suka menyelesaikan masalah mereka dengan cara yang termudah. Cara yang termudah selalunya bukanlah cara yang terbaik, Selesaikanlah masalah kamu dengan cara yang terbaik walaupun ianya bukan cara yang termudah” which translates to “Most Malaysians like to take the easy way when solving their problems. This is usually not the best way. Solve your problems using the best way even tough it may not be the easiest way.”
This should be good advice to those who felt the heat when the ban on export of logs was announced. Instead of opposing this noble and wise move, they should try to solve their problem by using the huge profits they have made previously to invest in downstream processing activities like plywood milling, saw milling and manufacturing mouldings, joinery and doors.
Actually, they are duty bound to participate in such activities to enhance the state’s industrial sector and help it fill up its coffers. This is like giving something back to the society that had enriched them all.
We should all usher in our new beginning under the Pakatan Harapan Government with hopes and aspirations to become a successful nation by putting self interest in the back burner.
Hidup Malaysia Baharu.