PETALING 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.