No more excuses, lower food prices now, Daim tells govt

Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin laments that the 2020 Budget doesn’t have enough allocation for agriculture. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: Former finance minister Daim Zainuddin today expressed concern over the lack of measures to reduce food prices, stating “there is no time for excuses any more”.

“Show us results,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the 29th Tunku Abdul Rahman Lecture® Series here.

He said agriculture would also create jobs, while providing Malaysians with fresh food and a healthier lifestyle.

The 81-year-old also took a swipe at state governments for not doing enough to encourage farming to increase the country’s food security.

He said he had written to all state governments to make land available for agricultural purposes for more people to go into farming, especially professionals.

“The response from some states is very encouraging but some don’t even bother to reply. But election time, they come begging for votes.

“They forget they represent the people.”

Daim said he had been travelling around the country and saw plenty of idle land despite the government taking its Shared Prosperity 2030 slogan to the United Nations, which includes developing the agriculture sector.

“But in the 2020 Budget, there is not enough allocation for agriculture,” he said, further asking if Putrajaya was serious in addressing agricultural issues.

“The rakyat are not happy about the rising cost of living. The issue is not being addressed although it is not difficult to solve the problem,” he added.

Citing examples, he said vegetables take 22 days to three months to grow. “Fruits take a maximum of one year and in some cases 75 days.”

He said during his nationwide tour, he saw professionals like engineers and lawyers becoming successful farmers but he said they do not have access to land and financing.

Due to that, he suggested a special agency to address this issue.

“Land must be easily available,” he added.

Daim said since land is available, it should be given to those keen in agriculture for 30 years. This will create jobs and produce the vegetables and fruits needed.

“That is not being done.”

Citing figures, Daim said Malaysia could even reduce food imports by 30% in three years if land and financing issues are tackled.

Another participant had asked if there was enough political will from the government to increase the country’s food security.

Daim replied that the will of the rakyat is strong and due to that a new government was selected on May 9, 2018.

“But the last couple of months, people are becoming frustrated. Things don’t seem to be moving. The government seems to be ignoring these sentiments. The rakyat should not be taken for granted.”

He said the bureaucratic process for those seeking help should be reduced as there are too many agencies.

“Even to get financing, 20 agencies are involved. Have just five agencies,” he said.

Two days ago, Daim said a businessman met him and told him that he needs 80 different licences to start a business.

Shaking his head over this situation, Daim added: “It is too bureaucratic. Things need to be simpler.”

In 2017, Malaysia imported RM51.3 billion in food products. This went up to RM52 billion in 2018.