Work together to boost Sabah’s GDP, timber players told

Deputy Chief Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau says more needed to be done to ensure greater growth in the state’s timber industry. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: The state government wants upstream and downstream timber players in Sabah to work together in order to tap on the industry’s huge potential.

Deputy Chief Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau said by complementing each other’s strengths, both sectors will be able to contribute and subsequently boost the state’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Speaking during the installation ceremony of the Sabah Timber Industry Association (STIA) office bearers here today, he noted the government was also doing its bit to rejuvenate the timber industry such as imposing a temporary ban on timber export.

He said, however, not everyone “smiled” when the government made the announcement recently.

“There should not be disharmony. For example when we banned the export of logs, only one side is smiling… we want everyone to smile.

“The ban was a quick remedy to overcome the shortage of material for the downstream activities.

“At the same time we are revisiting the strategies and initiatives to address the issues of the timber industries apart from taking a more holistic approach,” said Tangau, who is also the state trade and industry minister.

The Tuaran MP said a new policy on the Sabah timber industry was being looked into by a task force under his ministry.

The task force will involve all the upstream and downstream players including STIA, Tangau said.

Driving home his point on the need to push for downstream timber processing, Tangau compared the GDP income per capita between Singapore, which is currently about US$55,000 (RM225,610) and Sabah’s which is about US$5,000 (RM20,510).

“Why the huge gap? Why is it that Singapore can go very far?” he asked, adding that the city-state did not have any natural resources but its economy was booming due to its strategic location.

As such, he said value-added timber products possessed huge potential to increase the industry’s contribution to the state’s GDP.

“In Peninsular Malaysia where export of logs have been banned for quite some time already, the processed timber sector value is RM22 billion and the furniture segment alone is worth RM6 billion.

“Imagine that, while in Sabah the whole timber processing industry only contributes RM6 billion to the state’s GDP,” Tangau said.

Tangau said the government would be working closely with the upstream and downstream timber industry players to ensure the state’s development plan for the wood industry would be successfully implemented.

This includes improving key economic enablers such as logistics, especially port operations, he added.

“We want to develop a 24-hour port operations in the east coast districts like Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau. This is not just for timber, but for all natural resources like rubber, palm oil and also oil and gas export,” he said.

Acknowledging that Sabah is not situated in the main shipping route, Tangau said enhancing port efficiency and boosting volume of outbound cargoes were the key to attracting international shipping liners.