25 August, 2009

Malaysia: “Land without development is a poverty trap,” ?

Must read article :

" Getting Rich in Malaysia Cronyism Capital Means Dayak Lose Home "


About 30 minutes into the flight to the bustling oil town of Miri, the lush landscape changes, and neatly terraced fields of oil palms take the place of jungle. Twenty years ago, this was forestland. Now, those forests are lost forever.

The shift from rain forest to oil palm cultivation in Malaysia’s Sarawak state highlights the struggle taking place between forces favoring economic development, led by Sarawak state’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and those who want to conserve the rain forest and the ways of life it supports.

During Taib’s 28-year rule, his government has handed out concessions for logging and supported the federal government’s megaprojects, including the largest hydropower site in the country and, most recently, oil palm plantations. The projects are rolling back the frontiers of Borneo’s rain forest, home to nomadic people and rare wildlife such as orangutans and proboscis monkeys.

At least four prominent Sarawak companies that have received contracts or concessions have ties to Taib or his family.

Transforming Malaysia

The government of Malaysia plans to transform the country into a developed nation by 2020 through a series of projects covering everything from electric power generation to education. The country’s gross domestic product, which has been growing at an average 6.7 percent annual pace since 1970, shrank 6.2 percent in the first quarter.

In Sarawak, Taib’s government is following its own development plans that call for doubling the state’s GDP to 150 billion ringgit ($42 billion) by 2020. Sarawak Energy Bhd., which is 65 percent owned by the state government, said in July 2007 it plans to build six power plants, including hydropower and coal-fired generators.

The state government also wants to expand the acreage in Sarawak devoted to oil palms to 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) by 2010, from 744,000 at the end of 2008, according to Sarawak’s Ministry of Land Development. Companies that formerly chopped down hardwood trees and exported the timber are now moving into palm plantations.

( Continue reading here.)

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