Calling off cooperation with China detrimental to country: Najib

MUAR: Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said today calling off development projects in the country awarded to China will be "a crazy and insane" move that can be detrimental to the people.

The Prime Minister said the announced intention of the opposition Pakatan Harapan to cancel the proposed East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) if it wins the 14th general election is a political move that would be a loss for the people.

"Just imagine what will happen if we jeopardise our relations with China. If China refuses to buy our palm oil, furniture and timber, who else is going to buy them? If China does not buy, the opposition leaders will lose nothing, the people will stand to lose.

"The opposition is in a chaotic state. As such, choose a government that champions the plight of the people, that helps the people," he said when opening the Muar Furniture Park and launching the Bumiputra Furniture Entrepreneurs Scheme (SuperBumi) in Bakri here.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong were also present at the event.

The Muar Furniture Park, being developed on 399.2ha, is expected to be ready in mid-2020 and will house about 220 furniture entrepreneurs and create about 5,000 jobs in various fields.

The SuperBumi programme is implemented by the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry through the Malaysian Timber Industry Board with the collaboration of the Muar Furniture Association to make young Bumiputra furniture entrepreneurs more focused on becoming highly knowledgeable, productive, skillful and competitive.

Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had reportedly said that the opposition pact did not rule out the possibility of calling off the RM55-billion ECRL project if it won GE14 because it regarded it as wasteful.

Najib said China was Malaysia's biggest trading partner with trade valued at over RM100 billion annually and that exports of timber and timber products to China in 2016 reached RM846.8 million.

"The export figures show a rise of 3.7% from the previous year. Furniture remains the main export to China at RM121.7 million, rising by 91% from the previous year," he said.

At the event, Najib also declared Muar as Malaysia’s Furniture City in recognition of its status as the main manufacturer of furniture in the country.

He said 63% of the furniture produced in the country came from Johor and that Muar was the largest contributor, producing 70% of the total furniture manufactured in the state.

Najib said the Muar Furniture Park would spur the growth of the furniture industry in the country, adding that it was expected to trigger RM1.08 billion worth of furniture sales and provide 5,000 jobs.

"I want to see the Malaysian brand further strengthened in this industry. We are now No. 9 in the world in terms of exports and Malaysian furniture is being exported to more than 160 countries,” he said.

He also said that he wanted to see more Bumiputra entrepreneurs in the furniture industry and that programmes such as SuperBumi were the best ways of realising that objective.

"The contribution of the Bumiputra entrepreneurs in this sector is small, just one percent, so it is appropriate that programmes such as SuperBumi are implemented. I was informed that the scheme can create 600 Bumiputra entrepreneurs in the furniture manufacturing business,” he said. — Bernama