Agriculture to get a new lease of life

The govt wants to modernise agriculture and get more technologies to encourage young people to participate in the sector

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / source:

THE country’s agriculture sector is expected to undergo a revival via government’s initiatives that would see an increased effort in modernisation, the utilisation of technology and smart farming that could boost farmers’ income.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said that agriculture remains an important element in the economy and more programmes should be initiated to make the sector attractive.

“We want to modernise agriculture and get more technologies to encourage young people to participate in the sector.

“We have a lot of plans and the challenge is to bring various people with the same aim together,” he said at a fireside chat during the World Bank Group’s launch of the latest Malaysia Economic Monitor: Sowing the Seeds yesterday.

Mustapa’s sentiment is echoed by World Bank Group country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand Dr Ndiame Diop (picture) who said the Covid-19 pandemic has revived policies pertaining to food security in Malaysia and many other countries.

He said the Malaysia Economic Monitor underscores the importance of broadening the concept of food security beyond the question of quantity.

He added that any related initiative should include aspects of quality, affordability and the choice of food products for all Malaysians.

“Also, Malaysian authorities could leverage this heightened policy interest in Malaysia’s food security to motivate important policy reforms in the agro-food sector.

“With such reforms, the country can create new agricultural jobs, increase agro-exports, improve farmers’ incomes and enhance equity outcomes,” he added.

One of the goals of this modernising process should include the promotion of greater innovation and technological adoption by smallholders and firms engaged in farming across the country.

As for the country’s fourth quarter’s (4Q) performance, Mustapa said it is a lot more challenging to push economic recovery as a result of a surge in coronavirus infections during the period.

However, he said a quicker recovery could be seen towards the end of the later part of the year.

“Our priority at the moment is to ensure the easing of movement restrictions will help to usher in recovery in business activities, especially among small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“The increased traffic in Kuala Lumpur and the North-South Expressway are key indicators of people’s movement, which also translates into greater economic activities,” he added.

Mustapa said the government’s decision to allow interstate and inter-district travel would further push domestic tourism towards a faster recovery.

“While health remains a priority, the next move would be the easing of the Movement Control Order which will result in a faster rate of economic growth.

“In 4Q 2020, the October and November numbers were quite bad. So, certainly in the second half of December it will perk up a bit and that will begin the process of a gradual economic recovery,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mustapa said the pandemic has also prompted the government to shift the 12th Malaysia Plan’s (12MP) presentation to early 2021, months after the original date of Aug 6 this year.

“We need to go back to the drawing board and start engagement once again. There have been massive changes in the economic landscape globally and locally.

“We have to recognise this as any plan has to be realistic. Many of our forecasts were done early this year. We need to revisit the targets as Covid-19 has resulted in a lot of new thinking,” he added.

The new plan is a result of discussions with civil society, student leaders, politicians, MPs and the opposition.

Mustapa added that in terms of objectives and priorities, the main aim is Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

“The Shared Prosperity Vision that was launched in October 2019 included three main objectives — development for all, bridging the gap between the region and to achieve more united and prosperous Malaysia,” he said.

Also high on the 12MP agenda are issues pertaining to digitalisation, education, micro SMEs as well as information and communications technology along with digital initiatives.

“Another issue is on wages. The rate has been stagnant. Wages in Malaysia have not been moving up fast enough in line with the rising cost of living,” Mustapa added.

He said quality job opportunities are also part of the game plan.

“To do that, we need to bring foreign direct investment that plays an important role for Malaysia,” he said.

Meanwhile, Diop said while the global economy is poised to rebound in 2021, its full recovery will only happen when jobs and average incomes return to their pre-Covid-19 levels as projected in 2022.

“Indeed, the recovery process will be uneven, uncertain and subdued; it will not be definitive for any country until it is secured for most countries in the world.

“And it will hinge critically on the success of global containment measures and the wide-spread deployment of effective vaccines,” he said.

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