Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ambitious RM177-billion Northern Corridor growth blueprint is aimed at lifting region to world-class status, while offering hope to the rural poor.

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday launched the ambitious RM177 billion Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) development plan aimed at transforming the mainly agricultural north into a logistics, food-processing and tourism powerhouse by 2025.

The plan, covering Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis, aims to create 500,000
jobs by 2012, rising to one million by 2018, besides increasing the region’s GDP from RM52.7 billion in 2005 to a targeted RM214 billion by 2025.

Logistics initiatives include deepening and expanding the Penang port to
service Thailand and Sumatra, expanding an air cargo centre in Penang, and
a double-track rail link from Ipoh to Padang Besar on the border with Thailand.

The development undertaking is also aimed at lifting one of the poorest parts of the country to world-class status by 2025.

This growth blueprint for Perlis, Kedah, Penang and north Perak is expected to bring in a total of RM177 billion in investments. A third of it will come from the government, over the NCER’s 18-year duration, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said.

"Some 43 per cent of the total population in the four states are in the rural areas and we intend to bring greater development to them.

"They are actually very industrious since we can find many products from the villages in the supermarkets while some have gained international recognition.

"We want to help them boost their economic activities," Abdullah said at the unveiling of the NCER blueprint, developed by Sime Darby Bhd, here, yesterday.

Present were Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid, his counterparts from Perak and Perlis, Datuk Seri Mohd Tajol Rosli Ghazali and Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim and Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Also present among the 10,000 people at the ceremony, held at the Muda Agricultural Development Authority complex, were cabinet ministers, Sime Darby chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid and group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid.

Abdullah, passionate in his quest to help the rural poor, spoke on a wide range of topics including the need for the people to be pro-active towards development and the input and role of the private and public sectors.

He said by introducing modern processing and marketing techniques, cottage industries could be transformed into bigger manufacturing entities.

"This would create job opportunities in rural areas and help check rural migration to urban areas."

Citing a success story in Sik, he said a group of villagers managed to break out of the poverty cycle after participating in agricultural projects introduced by the state government.

"That is why I say the people, especially in the rural areas, are eager to improve their lot. They are anxious to know about our programmes and we want to bring more development projects to them.

"The projects are also meant to narrow the gap between the poor and the rich," he said.

Abdullah said cottage industries should not limit themselves to bahulu, a flour-based confection that is easy to mass produce, but must add value to their products, including in branding and packaging.

He said the four state governments would play complementary roles in the blueprint.

"Each state was chosen for certain economic activities because they are good at them or already have the basic infrastructure in place."

On the choice of Sime Darby, Abdullah said it was a global giant and an expert in the various economic sectors selected under the NCER.

"It is also a government-linked company that knows what the government wants to do for the people. It is a responsible member of the private sector that is very professional in its work to achieve the government’s goals.

"To make the NCER a success, we need the greatest commitment from the public and private sectors and especially the people that we want to help."

To begin with, he said the government had allocated RM5 billion for the initial phase of the NCER.

Abdullah said the Northern Corridor was different from the Iskandar Development Region (Iskandar) in Johor.

"The challenges and opportunities are also different but the aims are similar and that is to help the people.

"The NCER is about growth with social equality while Iskandar is urban-centred growth," he said, adding that the poverty rate in Kedah and Perlis was much higher than the national average.

Abdullah later launched estate-style padi farming in Jerai, the first of its kind in Kedah, to mark the Kedah-level NCER launching.

The 153ha estate was formed by merging the padi fields of 101 farmers.

More information about Northern Corridor Economic Region

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Unit to keep an eye on the hills in Putrajaya

Putrajaya Corporation has set up a special team to monitor hilly areas in Putrajaya to ensure that they are safe and prevent the recurrence of landslides.

Its president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said the team would be assisted by the Slope Division of the Public Works Department in conducting continuous surveillance of the hilly areas.

“The unit will check the slopes of the hilly areas, especially where houses are located. This is to ensure their stability and to look for signs of impending landslides,” he told reporters after flagging off participants of the Putrajaya Treasure Hunt 2007, here today.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Police released Parti Keadilan Rakyat webmaster released

KUALA LUMPUR: Police released Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) webmaster and blogger Nathaniel Tan, 27, at 5.15pm on Tuesday, four days after he was remanded for investigations under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

Tan, who is secretary to Foundation for the Future president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is believed to be in possession of documents linked to Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Johari Baharom’s alleged involvement in corruption.

The classified documents are believed to pertain to police case files on detainees or suspects investigated under the Emergency Ordinance.

On Friday evening, Tan was picked up from his office in Phileo Damansara by three Special Branch policemen from Bukit Aman.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Free ride: No charge for garbage disposal in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: There will be no new charges for garbage collection — at least for the time being.

The government and local authorities will share the cost which has traditionally been settled by the latter using assessment rates.

But things will change a little under the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Bill 2007 with local authorities channelling funds to a federal corporation handling waste nationwide.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said consumers should not worry about the cost factor as efficient garbage collection was the issue in the matter.

“We should not let payment and charges haunt us. At the moment, our focus is on providing effective solid waste management. This is no longer an issue of your right to throw your waste but of having a clean environment."
He said the government had to enter the picture as the amount from local authorities would not be enough to cover expenditure.

"Our main concern is to improve and ensure high quality service in two years before deciding on the next course of action."

Ong said existing concessionaires would be monitored using the Key Performance Index. He said licences would be issued by the ministry through its National Solid Waste Management Department.

The 88-page bill was tabled in parliament yesterday.

"All this while, local authorities have been facing a lack of finances to manage the process of waste being collected, transported, treated and destroyed in landfills," he said at his office yesterday.

He said local authorities needed funds to build more sanitary landfills, which were not cheap.

"For effective solid waste management, we need a foolproof system."

Ong said the bill included separation at source by consumers to prolong the life of landfills.

"We plan to impose the deposit refund system, which is yet to be determined, to control the amount of waste generated besides encouraging recycling.

"As long as we do not have a clear system to follow, the environment will be rapidly polluted by (among others) factories and households."

He said the bill was drafted after having considered best practices in Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, Japan and Australia.

"A tribunal will be set up for those seeking redress over issues pertaining to licensing, disputed claims or recovery of charges," he said, adding that the tribunal could award claims of up to RM50,000.

On areas covered under public cleanliness management, he said they included roads, toilets and drains, government-built and managed hawker or market centres, beaches, grass on kerbs and animal carcasses.

Another clause in the bill was for waste to be divided into eight categories; commercial, public, construction, household, industrial, institutions, imported waste and waste to be categorised at the minister’s prerogative.

"The eighth clause is an enabling clause for waste that can be categorised by the minister when needed," Ong said.

He said authority would also be given to the federal government to sign agreements on solid waste management and public clean-up.

The minister said he would also table consequential amendments to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation Bill, the Town and Country Planning Bill, the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, and the Street, Drainage and Building (Amendment) Bill.

Although the bill contains punitive measures against those who do not pay for waste collection, this will only be enforced if charges come into effect.

Under the bill, one would be fined RM5,000 for refusing to pay the bill for garbage collection or other charges.

An additional fine of RM50 a day will be imposed for each day the offence is continued.

The bill empowers the minister to take measures to help in the reduction, reuse and recycling of controlled solid waste.

He may issue orders for:

• Any solid waste generator to reduce the generation of controlled solid waste in any manner or method;

• Any person to use environmentally-friendly material;

• Any person to use specified amounts of recycled materials for specified products; and,

• Any person to limit the generation, import, use, discharge or disposal of specified products or materials.

Those who do not comply with the minister’s order are liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or imprisonment of up to six months, or both.

Langkawi Dialogue to focus on human capital development and poverty eradication

KUALA LUMPUR: The Langkawi International Dialogue will focus on capacity building, human capital development and poverty eradication.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said preparations were on track for the dialogue from Aug 5 to Aug 8.

“Fifteen heads of states have confirmed their attendance so far.

"We will be having a dry run on July 19 to ensure that everything is in order,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday.

Syed Hamid said this year’s LID was also open to leaders from outside Commonwealth countries, and so far, Vietnam and Thailand had confirmed their attendance.

Other countries invited include Bangladesh and Gambia.

Dialogue participants, he said, included those from the government and private sectors, academicians, and youth and non-governmental organisations.

The Langkawi International Dialogue is held once every two years.