Develop rural areas to stop urban migration, says minister

Minister Rina Harun says the government must improve infrastructure in rural areas and offer business opportunities and alternative sources of income. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Rural Development Minister Rina Harun has called for the diversification of the rural economy to prevent excessive migration to urban cities.

“The economy in rural areas depends heavily on the activities of the Bumiputera.

“But it is imperative for the government to diversify the rural economy through improved infrastructure, offered business opportunities and alternative income sources,” she said at a convention on the Rise of the Asian Tiger.

Deputy Economic Affairs Minister Radzi Jidin said the Bumiputera community as a whole was somewhat inexperienced in economics and the management of money, as previously stated by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“Unsystematic management of Bumiputera businesses has also resulted in many lost economic opportunities,” he said.

With rising living costs and stagnating salaries, he also said that strong and well-planned policies are desperately required to close the economic gaps that exist in terms of income, region and race.

Ahmad Yazid Osman, chief executive of the Bumiputera Economic Action Council, told the convention that Malaysia’s participation in international agreements or treaties such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership would rob the Bumiputeras of their right to make their own decisions, and bring little benefit to the community as a whole.

He said the reason why Bumiputera businesses seemed to contribute little to Malaysia’s GDP despite being given leverage by the government is because of corruption.

“Those undeserving of opportunities are given them, and they proceed to squander these opportunities,” he added, giving the example of “Ali Baba” projects.

Lecturer Lee Hwok-Aun proposed that affirmative policies be re-examined and executed in a systematic, effective and progressive manner.

He agreed that a merit-based system should be given due consideration, but said the pro-Bumiputera system must first be strengthened and made less dependent on reserves, quotas and discounts.

“Such a merit-based system should also be introduced in stages, sector by sector, while retaining the pro-Bumiputera system,” Lee said at the same event.

Ultimately, he added, a clear plan and understanding of the community’s problems are what is necessary.