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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WE RECEIVED THE MONEY LONG AGO’: IRATE FELDA SETTLERS SMASH NAJIB’S ‘RECYCLED’ BUDGET

FOR Nasir Isa, a Felda settler from Kota Tinggi, the special incentive announced in Budget 2018 is not something to be excited over as it is a rehash of previously announced allocations.
The one-off incentive of RM5,000 was announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak in July.
“We’ve already received the money,” Nasir told The Malaysian Insight.
“It’s the same with the oil palm replantation scheme that was announced. The truth is our wages have already been cut RM119 for the replantation programme. So, what is new with Budget 2018?
“For me, it’s more of the same. There is no priority for us, that is why I call it a recycled budget.”  
Such is the sentiment of settlers regarding the budget presented by Najib last Friday, which is regarded as insufficient to resolve their many issues.
Another promise was the allotment of 5,000 housing units, which was announced in 2012, although the project has since been halted.
The second-generation of Felda settlers have not rejected the incentives, said Suara Generasi Kedua’s Zulkifli Nordin, but believe many issues remain unresolved.
“The Felda issues are more complicated and there’s little in the budget that can uplift our feeling of anxiety. But it’ll have to do for now,” he said.
The issues include rising Felda debt and an inefficient plantation management system.
“It is not that we’re not thankful to the government for all the incentives so far as it showed their commitment to helping the settlers.
“However, from what we see, this does not solve all our problems,”   he said, adding that debt and plantation issues have been affecting settlers for the past decade.
The government should focus on inefficient plantation schemes affecting Felda and Felda Technology Plant (FTP).
“There is a shortage of labour and contractors are not able to carry out the survey and management of plantations in a more efficient and systematic way.”
The Malaysian Insight has previously highlighted problems in plantation schemes linked to Felda Global Ventures Holdings Berhad (FGV).
In 2012, the Najib administration allowed FGV take over 335,000ha of Felda plantation land and listed on Bursa Malaysia.
At the time, the initial public offering price of RM4.55 but has declined to RM1.89 today.
In 2015, FGV cancelled plans to buy a 37% stake in oil palm firm PT Eagle High Plantations at a higher-than-market price, following objections from shareholders.
The latest FGV controversy involved a tussle between CEO Zakaria Arshad and former chairman Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.
Both accused each other of mismanaging FGV, leading to investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
No guarantee of votes
Meanwhile, Persatuan Anak Peneroka Felda  Kebangsaan (Anak) president Mazlan Alima said it is hard to predict whether the incentives would translate into support for the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).
Mazlan said the minds of the second- and third-generation of Felda settlers have already been made up.
“It is hard to gauge the opinions of the first-generation settlers. But the new Felda generation of settlers has access to information.
“They reject (Felda’s incentives) in the budget as they are not affected.”  
Anak has requested that the government explain whether the announcement to build 5,000 housing units, at the cost of RM164 million, is a new project or the stalled one from 2012.
A total of 300 units are slated to be constructed in Besut, Terengganu; Chini Timur 2, Pahang; and Tenggaroh, Johor.
“We would like to know whether the housing units at these three locations are from the stalled projects in 2012.
“As far as Anak can tell, it’s only at Felda Tenggaroh 3 that 100 homes have been constructed. We consider them a failure, as the participants in the projects still do not know their debts from the housing loans.”
Mazlan added that he is worried there might be funding cuts for Money Fund Ses, replantation scheme under Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority (Risda).
The incentives were promised by Najib to 7,800 settlers during the Kerdau by-election in 2011.
“The reality is that the settlers are tired of going back and forth to the Risda offices to make their claims.
“Even if they go, would Risda pay the settlers directly or through Felda, which is filled with bureaucratic red tape.”
Mazlan said other issues of contention include the location of the Technoplant.
“Why don’t they empower Felda Investment Corporation and the co-ops in all the Felda schemes?
“This has better potential of raising a new generation of Felda entrepreneurs than letting Technoplant or other capitalists take advantage of the settlers.”  
Last Friday, Najib announced incentives for 112,000 Felda settlers. Among them is a payout of RM5,000 to 8,925 setters amounting to RM94 million and a RM60 million oil palm replantation scheme as well as Ses replantation purchasing programme from 2010 to 2016.
The prime minister and finance minister also announced the construction 5,000 units for second-generation Felda settlers, via a RM164 million venture with Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB).
RM200 million has also been allocated for the upgrade of utilities, such as water, electricity and roads.
– https://www.themalaysianinsight.com

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