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 Mahamad Rodzi Abdul Ghani
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 Abdullah Reiterates Determination To Develop Agric

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 22 (Bernama) -- The Prime Minister Tuesday nightreiterated his determination to see the Malaysian agriculture sectorgrowing by leaps and bounds, tapping into the advancement of technologyand harnessing the endless opportunities.

"I am not returning agriculture to how it was many, many years ago. We aregoing to give it a new profile," said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi inthe one-hour "Fast Forward" programme hosted by Malaysia Airlines chairmanDatuk Dr Munir Majid and aired over RTM's TV1.

He said the sector has tremendous potentials which, if properly moulded,effectively and strategically undertaken, would change the economiclandscape of the nation and the people who were directly involved in it.

Rebutting scepticism over the government's focus on agriculture, Abdullahsaid a developed agriculture sector would help improve the livelihood ofthousands of farmers and fishermen in the country.

He said developing the agriculture sector would also see spin-offs ofsmall and medium enterprises in the rural areas which in turn would helpto improve the life of the people.

"The sector offers a lot of possibilities and opportunities," he said,citing a number of technologically advanced areas that could be venturedinto such as herbal industry, pharmaceutical, bio-medicine and theprospect of mass producing bio-fuel from palm oil.

"We are emphasising more on SME agro-based ventures...there's much moneyto be made in the sector," said the Prime Minister.

Abdullah also spoke about the need to emphasise the development of humanresources "because we are now approaching an era when competitiveness isvery, very stiff, especially with globalisation".

He said the country and its people could make an impact in the world ifits workforce was good.

"I have been talking about people with towering personalities, people withgood character, people who are professionally very competent and highlyskilled. These are the kind of people who will bring a good name toMalaysia," he added.

By emphasising the human factor, the Prime Minister said the governmentstrived to value-add a person.

"The motto is, you must be ready to learn, unlearn and re-learn. Tounlearn means anything that is already overtaken by time. You be ready todiscard it and learn new things."

The Prime Minister said the development of human capital should not justbegin at the workplace but also should be designed as early as during theschooling years.

"We have to train, retrain teachers. They must be updated. The schoolcurriculum must be dynamic...we can't be teaching them (pupils) the samesubjects we had been teaching 40 years ago," he said.

On his hope of seeing "towering Malay" personalities and his optimism ofseeing that happening when earlier leaders were disappointed, Abdullahsaid: "We have to do it. We cannot run away from the facts...that theMalays must be improved."

He said there was a lot to do in training and inculcation of values thatpromoted harmony, discipline and emphasis on life-long education.

"I think I can do it because the environment today is different thanbefore. We have the kind of facilities, better facilities. Ourinstitutions are better equipped, teachers are prepared to provide thetraining needed and the workforce is educated. I think we have to providethe opportunities for them (Malays)," he added.

Regarding deficiencies in the government delivery system, Abdullah saidthe government had taken various steps to tackle problems hindering theeffectiveness of the public sector.

He cited an example where the government sent a "special squad" to theland offices to identify problems causing backlogs there.

He said most of those problems had been removed and now about 90 per centof the backlog cases had been resolved.

The Prime Minister said the setting up of "decision centres" in governmentdepartments was also aimed at speeding up the processes, reducing red-tapeand improving efficiency of the public sector's services.

On the international front, particularly during his tenure as chair of theOrganisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Abdullah said Malaysia wouldcontinue to emphasise capacity-building among member nations.

He said Malaysia hoped to see OIC members become the catalyst with thericher members extending a helping hand by channelling investments invarious areas to the poorer member nations which would provide jobopportunities and improve the socio-economic well-being of their people.

"Capacity-building...that I introduced myself. We already have meetingsfor this purpose. We have already identified a number of countries wherewe will be going in for capacity-building.

"We will identify a certain project in a particular country. Then we willdecide which company goes to which country. If the company is doing well,it will provide job opportunities and that will bring income to thepeople.

"The company should also provide some support for the development of thepeople, building schools, training, for example.

"That is the kind of capacity-building that I am talking about," the PrimeMinister said.


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