People don't talk much about rural development now. Felda and Felcra seem to dominate the development scene in the rural areas while the SMIs (Small and Medium Scale Industries) seem to favor the urban and suburban areas rather than the rural interior on the country. As for modernized agricultural development, we do see some efforts in reclaiming rice fields which had been abandoned, though much as in Penang, the fields have been turned into manufacturing and housing development areas.
As for the rural villages the last known policy adopted by government was the 'one village one product' program. How has this programme been translated into action, especially in the light of the SMI development agenda? Are we beginning to see rural villages coming up with various industrial or handicraft products, achieving the quality than can make them worthy of export promotion? Except for Batiks and Orchids, we still don't hear of anything that has become internationally known. With rubber and palmoil production receiving solid competition from other countries now, what is Malaysia's no. 1 product? Neither tin nor timber, neither Proton cars nor petroleum by-products.
It is my firm belief that the rural areas hold a great potential to become the engine of growth for SMI products. The infrastructural and capital requirements ( with so many funds being established) seem to be already in place.So what is lacking? Political willpower,entrepreneural leadership and skilled labour force perhaps. Does the 'one village one product' pokicy support SMI development in the rural areas and vice versa? Or do we want the villages to go back to rice farming, poultry rearing, or rubber smallholding activities?
As of now the revival or re-energizing of UMNO in the rural areas seem to hold top priority. Is this going to work when most of the youths have migrated to the urban areas. Yes they may go back home to the villages to cast their votes but do they know the Wakil Rakyat and vice versa. More than half a century of independence and we have yet to see a real effort to modernize the village economy is being done we for Felda, The young people are leaving the villages in droves and many villages are already
"underpopulated' except on festive days. The problem of rural to urban migration has been known since the 1960's yet nothing much has been done to bring back the youths to the villages thjrough economic and job-related attractions. Is the 'one village one product' policy productive at all and can it produce something for which Malaysia can be known by the world.
As it is many of the things Malaysia is wellknown for, may not be that complimentary although the "cemerlang, gemilang dan terbilang' battlecry has now dissipated.