KUALA LUMPUR (July 9): Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali gave an assurance the government’s plan to merge Felda settlers’ land will not affect their ownership.
“The ownership will still be with the settlers. It’s just that [what each own] is very small now, only about 10 acres (4.05ha) per settler, so there are no economies of scale. That is why we proposed to amalgamate the land to increase productivity by using new technologies,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby yesterday.
Mohamed Azmin said the land amalgamation would ultimately require the settlers’ consent.
“We proposed this, but we need the settlers’ consent because the land belongs to them. We are not acquiring the land. Therefore, the PM this morning (yesterday) asked me to find out which owners are agreeable to this. Once we have secured a thousand or two thousand acres of land, maybe we can start with a pilot project.
“Additionally, we found that 70% of these settlers are aged 60 and above [so] they don’t have the capacity to work on these estates. So, we want to provide them with new technologies, but we need to amalgamate the land. Once this [pilot] project succeeds, the rest can come on board to continue this initiative,” he added.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, while delivering his speech at the Felda Settlers’ Day 2019 celebration in Felda Selancar 3, Pahang, said the government plans to merge Felda settlers’ land to turn them into bigger estates that can enjoy improved yields under more efficient and professional management.
Mohamed Azmin, who was present at the event, also dismissed media reports that he was jeered at by the audience when he gave a speech. He added that the event was “well received” by Felda settlers, given how many had travelled from all over the country to welcome the prime minister and the initiatives presented in the White Paper.
Though he is not clear what the commotion was about, he does not think it had anything to do with the Pahang government being run by the Barisan Nasional coalition.
“In fact before the PM went to Pahang, I received a letter from the menteri besar of Pahang to discuss some infrastructure projects in Pahang, which our ministry looked into. We then agreed to consider three megaprojects in Pahang and these were approved by the PM yesterday (Sunday),” he said.
This, he added, shows the federal government would not neglect Pahang's development.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on July 9, 2019.
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