PEKAN: The country cannot remain a commodity producer if it wishes to advance, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said the cause of low income for a nation and an individual was when it did not get involved in value-added economic activities.
"An example are African nations. They cannot develop because they are still stuck in the commodity producer phase.
"The African continent is rich in tin, iron, diamonds and all manner of resources, but the whole economic network is controlled by multi-national corporations," he said at the presentation of the Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda) dividends and the launch of the young generation of smallholders programme here yesterday.
He said African nations had to break free from the clutches of multi-national corporations before they could advance.
"Some countries achieved independence not long after us, but they are lagging behind in development when compared to us. There are a lot of factors, such as the failure to change their policies, economic structure and networks," he added.
Najib said if smallholders did not get involved in activities that provide higher returns, they might face the same fate.
"I propose that besides producing commodities, smallholders learn good governance and how to manage. That is the way forward if we do not want to be stuck in a rut," he added.
Najib said that to ensure the younger generation take part in the industry, smallholders had to show it was productive, competitive and dynamic.
"Otherwise, the younger generation would think it was better to work in the service industry like McDonald's rather than in the plantations," he said.
During the event, Najib announced that the Government was prepared to allocate RM10mil through Risda to implement the young generation of smallholders programme in next year's budget.
"The Government, through Risda, will set up a Smallholders' Children Scholarship Scheme to give financial aid to children with potential for success from low-income families," he said.
At another function here, Najib said Malaysia was way ahead of countries that had achieved independence at about the same time as Malaysia.
"During my visit to Tanzania recently, I found that its people are still looking for ways to develop their agriculture, while ours are already in order," he said at a breaking of fast event with settlers of Felda Chini 2 here.