Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak needs the settlers en masse to vote for him and Umno, and money is not an issue.
For example, let’s take the Felda settlers case and the listing of Felda Global Ventures (FGV).
Three weeks ago, Najib announced a Hari Raya bonus of RM43 million. Divided by 112,635 Felda settlers, each family received RM380.
Months ago, he gave RM15,000 to each Felda family – RM5,000 for the father, RM5,000 for mother and RM5,000 for the son – father, mother and “holy” son.
Incidentally, when proclaiming the bounty, he also announced that those who opposed the FGV listing are accursed bastards – haramjadah.
Anyway to purchase the loyalty of 112,635 settlers, Najib’s government will spend RM1.689 billion. But this is merely the appetiser or hors d’œuvre.
It’s also true that the condemned man gets the meal he desires before being executed.
What was the basis of giving RM15,000 to Felda family? What makes the Felda settler special compared to the ordinary villager?
Najib gives money to Felda settlers not because of any altruistic motives. He bribes settlers to vote for him and Umno.
Why isn’t he extending the RM15,000 to traditional villagers? After all, they face the same mounting cost of living as do Felda settlers.
Promises and shocks
When FGV was about to go for listing, he announced that each family will get 810 units each.
Each settler family was handed a bank loan form written in English with all the convoluted terms and conditions.
The banks will lend the settlers 100% to purchase 810 units of FGV shares valued at RM4.55. The settler will borrow RM3,686.
The loan will have to be repaid in full within six months. I forget the interest rate. Each loan carried with it a processing fee of RM200.
Settlers were aware they had to borrow to buy the 810 units.
The government promised the moon and the stars, saying said the value of the shares will skyrocket. But the settlers were in for a shock.
Assuming the premium on the shares was RM1, the settlers were told they can make RM810. Less RM200, they will make a clean profit of RM610, if the share reaches RM 5.55.
The share did reach RM5.55 for a brief moment. Settlers wasted no time in unloading the shares. Those who sold at a premium made RM610 net profit. .
Those who held on were in for a rude shock.
The share price is now hovering RM5-RM5.02. At a unit cost of RM4.55, the premium now is 47 sen.
If the settler still clings on to his 810 units, he can realise a value of RM380. Less the RM200 loan processing fee, he still gets to make RM180.
Suddenly the settlers realise they have been taken for a ride. All those form fillings and they get RM180 net.
Nothing is free
How does Najib soothe their pent-up frustrations? He announced that Felda will now finance the purchase of the shares.
Where will Felda get the money? Will it borrow or use the proceeds it got from selling its FGV shares?
Nothing is free. If settlers are to be given free shares or pay a nominal sum of RM50 per month, the government has still got to fork out RM1.68 billion to buy the entire 91.2 million shares allotted to the settlers.
Why, in the first place, didn’t Najib tell the settlers that Felda will finance their purchase? Why were loan forms distributed?.
The only explanation is that Najib himself was clueless. The moment he realised that the profits to be made were meagre and would only anger the settlers, he came out with his usual Santa Claus solution.
He, the anointed prime minister, then directs Felda to finance the entire purchase.
That means the settler will get the full amount, that is, the value of 810 units at whatever price is traded when the settler wants to see it.
Even if the share drops to its original listed price of RM4.55 per share, the settler still gets his RM3,685.
On the shares alone, each settler stands to get RM3,685. What does this value represent? It’s the price Najib pays to get your (sons/daughters of settlers) parents’ vote.
What is the total amount the settler gets?
Let’s assume that RM15,000 has been paid in full. That’s a RM15,000 windfall as announced in Jengka to which some settlers (Umno members) were jumping up and down joyously. Just before Raya, the settler received another RM380.
Provided all the “janjis” by Najib are “ditepati”, settlers will get RM15,000 (advanced bribe), RM3,685 (share value), and RM380 Raya bonus.
In total, Najib will be spending RM2.15 billion to secure the 112,635 votes from Felda.
Felda settlers – 112,635 of them – must think: if you are not useful, would Najib be freely handing out money to you?
The only reason (Najb is keen on them ) is that the settlers form a formidable grouping concentrated in areas easy to control. Najib needs them to continue voting for him, hence the bribes.
If these settlers were ordinary villagers, would Najib spend RM19,000 on each person?
The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman but joined DAP earlier this year. He is a FMT columnist.