Felda an economic powerhouse under BN, says Shahrir
ETALING JAYA: The Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) has hit back at claims by opposition politicians that the government entity has neglected its duties to settlers who come under its scope.
Its chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad was quoted by The Star Online today as describing Felda as an “economic powerhouse” which saw settlers’ total income reaching RM3.97 billion last year.
The Umno Johor Bahru MP said the 112,000 settlers have benefitted a great deal with several new measures in the works to further improve their welfare and profits.
He said Felda has paid RM227.4 million in dividends through subsidiary Felda Global Ventures Bhd (FGV) to the settlers, which is equivalent to RM2,187 per settler.
“Settlers’ income is returned 100% and Felda does not charge any management fees,” he was quoted as saying.
“The only deductions we make are from the advances that we give to settlers to help them during the period when their palm trees are still growing.”
“We want to continue the philosophy of balanced rural development while also empowering the people.”
Furthermore, Koperasi Permodalan Felda (KPF), the cooperative owned by members and management of Felda with a fund size of RM2.5 billion, returns about 10% annually to its members, he was quoted as saying.
The Star report said Felda has an annual budget of between RM2 billion and RM3 billion to support the settlers with housing, education and assistance in managing land.
Voters in Felda estates are said to be influential in 60 parliamentary seats and almost 100 state seats.
On March 19, PKR held a convention dedicated to Felda issues, which was attended by more than 200 settlers, in Shah Alam.
The party’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim had then questioned Felda’s actual profits which he said were not honestly told to the settlers. His speech was read by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ibrahim, who is PKR president, as Anwar is in jail over a sodomy conviction.
He said real improvement can only come about if Felda implements policies that tackle issues of poverty and upholds the rights of its settlers.
Shahrir had objected to the convention, saying it was motivated by a political agenda and was meant to incite the general public and the settlers against the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
Other Pakatan Harapan leaders like DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu have also criticised the government’s handling at rallies organised in Felda estates in the lead-up to the upcoming 14th general election.
Shahrir was also quoted as wanting returns from assets held by Felda to be improved significantly compared with what it was yielding.
The management of FGV and the other subsidiary Felda Investment Corp (FIC) have been directed to improve returns to their shareholders, he added.
Shahrir also reportedly said FIC, which has investments in hotels, properties and listed-companies, was not giving desired returns since it was incorporated in 2013.
He added that he asked the previous FIC board members to resign, and appointed new members who are industry professionals with no conflict of interest as they hail from outside Felda.
Musa laments fate of Felda and worries for Tabung Haji
PETALING JAYA: Speaking frankly, former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam laments the fate that has befallen the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) which was pioneered by the nation’s second prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein.
In his book titled ‘Frankly Speaking’, Musa claims Abdul Razak’s son, current Prime Minister Najib Razak, has used Felda as a tool to gain the Malay rural vote.
Musa, who chaired Felda back in the 70s, claims that Najib had turned it into a public listed company in hopes that the settlers would get lots of shares at favourable rates.
“It is not surprising that Najib’s motives were widely regarded as political. He was probably thinking that he had to depend on Malay rural votes and wanted a way to win the favour of this group.
“The political calculation was simple. If Najib could use Felda to get Malay support, his chances of retaining power would be very good,” he says, adding that, instead, Felda has turned into a serious problem for the government.
Musa points out that from an offer price of RM5.39 in June 2012, Felda shares were trading at around RM1.54 as of March this year.
Noting that while there are many other reasons for its poor performance, which include palm oil prices, he says Felda is also faced with problems of mismanagement and corruption.
Musa also questions the appointment of an individual with a record of practising money politics, to lead the board.
“Felda is now being run by a senior Umno leader who was once suspended from Umno for three years for practising money politics. Yet he now presides over an organisation sitting on billions of ringgit,” Musa writes in his book.
While no name is mentioned, it is believed that Musa is referring to former Umno vice-president Mohd Isa Abdul Samad who was appointed as Felda chairman in 2010, two years after his suspension period ended.
The Johor-born politician expresses worry that the fate that has befallen Felda may befall Tabung Haji, an initiative inspired by Royal Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz to help Muslims perform the hajj.
“Personally, I am not comfortable with the way Tabung Haji is being administered. Even if I were not a depositor, which I am, I would still be concerned,” he says, referring to the allegations that Tabung Haji has been involved in questionable dealings with 1MDB.
Musa says it appears that Tabung Haji is open to abuse, in citing an example from 2012 when two Tabung Haji personnel were charged in a sessions court with altering its database and receiving bribes.
“Najib seems to have no effective answer to its problems.”
Musa’s book was launched yesterday by the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.It is available in bookstores.