III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURAL POLICY
F. Implementation of the mechanisms
1. Strengths of the mechanisms
Evidently, there are enough incentives to achieve the objectives of expanding the agricultural sector, particularly palm oil, rubber and cocoa, in terms of national development and the protection of the environment. The incentives include those for agro-based products whereby pioneer status will be given to pioneer companies. Incentives are also given in the form of allowances such as the Reinvestment Allowance and Agricultural Allowance. At the same time, incentives are in place for encouraging research and development, the introduction high technologies, strategic projects, exports and training.
In the case of research and development, adequate efforts have been made to enhance the agricultural sector. Research and development includes food technology, biotechnology, agricultural environmental research etc., which are consistent with the objectives of MARDI and other research bodies established in Malaysia.
The main objective of the policies is to maximize income from agriculture through efficient utilization of the country's resources and the revitalization of the contribution by the sector to the overall economic development of the country. Therefore the government introduced NAP as a guideline for national agricultural development. NAP enables the development of new land for economic activities.
EIA is one of the mechanisms used to provide decision-makers with an appraisal of environmental, health and social implications of alternative courses of action. It can reduce errors in resource allocations, thus minimizing potential adverse impacts and maximizing the benefits for all citizens. Under the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, another support mechanism exists within the EIA review committee in the form of a panel of experts, drawn from various government departments and other institutions. Through that committee, solutions have been found to a number of issues and problems concerning the integration of environmental considerations into project planning.
In implementing the mechanisms at the State level, a close relationship exists between the State Planning Committee and the State Executive Committee on the Environment as both have an interest with respect to conservation and preservation and development. The formation of the Executive Committee on the Environment at the State level should be lauded and the Department of Environment praised for bridging the gap between the federal government and the State authorities in managing the environment.
The cocoa policy will ensure consistency in bean size, fat content, acidity and flavour. Research and development of labour-saving technologies and new varieties that have higher yields and can withstand severe attacks by pests and diseases will contribute towards the creation of a market niche for Malaysian cocoa beans, while also maintaining the competitiveness of the industry in international markets. The policy will also guide some programmes such as: the expansion of the downstream industries; the manufacturing of the cocoa into tertiary products; joint ventures with foreign investors to obtain market links and distribution networks; market segmentation through product development; product diversification; and offshore investments.
Eco-labels are generally awarded to products which satisfy the environmental criteria established by the eco-labelling bodies. In Malaysia, the Federal Agricultural Marketing Authority undertakes the inspection, grading and certification of cocoa beans which are to be exported. Eco-labels does not create any obstacles to international cocoa trade. In fact, they attract importing countries and are also recognized as an environmental policy tool.
Trade expansion has the potential to encourage improper waste disposal. To avoid that problem, a bold policy is needed. The trade and environment policy in the Seventh Malaysian Plan includes monitoring the impact on health as well as the coordination of international trade and environmental protection policies with agricultural production. Trade and environmental policy requires the cooperation of the ministries at the national level and relevant inter-governmental organizations at the international level. Negotiations to enter into international treaties, agreements or Conventions are conducted with the participation of officers of the Attorney-General's Chambers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and all relevant ministries and agencies. They are assisted by experts, who act as advisors, from universities, research institutions and NGOs. Representatives of the State governments are not usually involved in the initial stages.
On a regional perspective, a review of ASEAN efforts towards environmental collaborative indicates that ASOEN has substantially accomplished its mandate. For example, the development and evolution of ASEP programmes has ensured a solid basis and the further enhancement of regional environmental cooperation. Perhaps the most significant contribution of the previous programmes was the maturing of the environmental agencies in the respective ASEAN countries. Those accomplishments should be sustained and further developed in order to make them more attuned to the times.
Much work, however, will have to be done on the design, selection and prioritization of programmes and projects, as most of the previous activities were stand-alone projects that did not fully contribute to the long-term ASEAN objectives. The short-term nature of previous projects was the result of inadequate financing in support of ASOEN activities as well as institutional deficiencies.