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Friday, June 9, 2017

The killing of once cash-rich Felda



No one knows what happened to the profits of RM982 million made by Felda just several years ago, or the deep reserves or retained earnings Felda had in billions of ringgit.
Were they reinvested in Felda, or, completely blown away through expensive acquisitions and trips to London, Geneva and Paris?
The latter is a possibility. Anyone who knows Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, either his family entourage or his political entourage, must have seen their lavish spending, almost with no limits.
Even Jho Low, the son of Larry Low, splurged several millions of US dollars just to propose to Taiwanese singer Elva Hsiao. This has been an open secret in YouTube well before the money was spent on Hollywood productions, like "Dumb and Dumber II" and "The Wolf of Wall Street".
As the Malay saying goes, "Kalau guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari," which literally means monkey see, monkey do.
In this case, Felda has merely taken a leaf out of, allegedly, Najib's playbook by spending millions on worthless endeavours. In case no one has paid any attention, it is good to note that RM600,000 alone was spent on cleaning the window panes of Felda's towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Such wastages were recorded by the Auditor-General's Office two years ago. Yet, true to Najib's tendency to let the rot stink, he did nothing to stop it.
With the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) now hauling away incriminating materials in Felda, it goes without saying that Najib, or his advisers who circumambulate him dutifully, will intervene to block the investigations from seeing the light of day.
Then, in came Idris Jala, the former de facto minister for transformation, who was so engrossed with key performance indicators (KPIs) that he would set them in and across all ministries.
In turn, the secretary-generals of these ministries run rings around him by announcing anything that is countable as one KPI. Thus, if one increases the meetings in the ministries by the power of four, what were originally three meetings a day would become 12 meetings.
And, to the amazement of some, who knew that this was all a charade put up by the secretary-generals of the respective ministries, Idris actually fell for it. Not forgetting the many impressive, colourful charts and Powerpoint presentations that actually hide the actual and painful ground realities. But who cared, or even cares?
Thus, sending Idris into Felda is not merely too little but too late and too lackadaisical, too. If Najib cared deeply about Felda, like his father did - and Najib doesn't - he would have listened to Anak, the NGO that has been warning for years about the danger of endemic corruption within Felda.
Instead, Anak and its leaders were pressurised through a slew of legal suits and other actions that saw some of them actually being arrested and spend some time under remand. All for speaking the truth and becoming the early warning signal of the deep existence of corruption, malfeasance and abuse of power. They vehemently opposed the appointment of Isa Samad as Felda chief. Now, it looks like they are all clearly vindicated in their struggle.
Stock prices plunge
Further, Anak, which is formed by the sons and daughters of the first generation Felda settlers, were swatted off like flies. They were made to feel unwelcome in any Felda meetings. Even stones were thrown at them, harming them physically when they tried to present their case to the many Felda settlers. I am sure those Felda settlers will regret their actions now, given the steady decline of Felda.
Even when Anak opposed the initial public offering (IPO) of Felda Global Ventures (FGV), an opposition that proved prescient, as the prices dropped from RM4.50 to nearly RM0.80 at one stage, Najib still couldn't care less. Instead, Najib boasted that FGV was the second biggest IPO after Facebook in 2011.
Now, if Felda is so strong, why did it require the government to pump more money into it? Even the rich cash reserves Felda once had are almost depleted in rapid fire in hosts of dubious foreign acquisitions that only dragged down its balance sheet even more. With no profit in sight, losses weighed down FGV, and by extension Felda and its settlers.
Obviously, the rot had started, and the gangrene is in its advanced stage. An immediate amputation is needed to save the rest of the body. The time has come for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to look into the failed IPO, whether the stock should be delisted completely, granted that it is literally bleeding blood each day.
Sending Idris is akin to getting a mortician to examine the heartbeat of a patient in rigour mortis. Therein the problem with Najib and Najibnomics. He always gets the symptoms wrong and applied the flawed diagnosis that goes against the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.

With Najib and the BN government, what will fail has failed and will fail and fail further. This is why Felda is now more wobbly than ever.

RAIS HUSSIN MOHAMED ARIFF is a supreme council member of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). He also chairs the Bersatu Policy and Strategy Bureau.- Mkini

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