Govt seeks to slash red tape, boost paddy farmers’ yields

Govt is looking to help paddy farmers be less reliant on govt subsidies, which are estimated at RM1.8b annually

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

Malaysia’s economic council has told the administration to slash lengthy approval processes and boost paddy farmers’ incomes by increasing yields and venturing into cash crops as the government works to boost the country’s economy.

The country’s Economic Action Council (EAC), a leading body in devising strategic initiatives to fuel the economy, made the recommendations after its third meeting in Putrajaya yesterday.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) said the high-level council highlighted the need to cut red tape in the construction sector to boost economic growth and job creation.

Dr Mahathir, who is the chairman of the council established in February this year, has instructed Chief Secretary to the government Datuk Seri Dr Ismail Bakar to undertake a comprehensive review of the infrastructure project permit approvals.

Dr Mahathir said the government is now looking to cut the number of processes by half which has been a bane to investors.

“Investors are facing difficulties to get approvals. I was told that there are as many as 60 processes involved in the construction sector. We are now looking to expedite the approvals, which in turn will contribute towards economic growth,” he said in Putrajaya after the council’s meeting yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said some approvals took up to three years before construction work could begin.

Investors previously highlighted that bureaucratic processes and lengthy approval processes stifled investments. Delays in approvals also cost investors money, restrained investment inflows and muted jobs creation.

It is not known whether the lengthy processes are related to approvals at the federal or state levels.

Dr Mahathir said the council also deliberated on the livelihood of paddy farmers, which has failed to see large yield increases and better living standards.

There are about 200,000 paddy farmers in the country who produce about 70% of the country’s rice needs. The government is already pumping about RM1.8 billion annually in the form of subsidies to these farmers.

The EAC highlighted that there is a need to make paddy farmers more efficient by helping them cultivate better yields per acre. Dr Mahathir said the government is looking to help paddy farmers be less reliant on government subsidies.

“We want them to be more efficient. Currently, they are harvesting four tonnes per acre when they can produce up to eight tonnes per acre. We will need to help them improve their methods of planting and how they apply fertilisers, for example,” he said.

“At the same time, they cannot rely solely on paddy. They can allocate some areas on their land to plant cash crops like mangoes and pineapples, which can be harvested three to four times in a year,” he added.

In Kedah, where a third of the country’s rice supply is produced, paddy can be harvested up to twice a year. However, in most states, the crop can only be harvested once a year due to weather conditions.

The EAC in a statement said the committee also discussed the need to reduce regulatory costs, with priority given to the tourism sector.

It said this will help stimulate the domestic economy, create more employment opportunities and increase foreign-exchange earnings.