PUTRAJAYA: The Government will ensure that the newly corporatised Felcra Bhd meets its original objective of bringing plantation owners out of the poverty group.
Speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Rural Development Minister and the organisation, minister Datuk Azmi Khalid said it must first achieve its social obligations.
Once fully corporatised, Felcra Bhd will be free to explore whatever business fields it wishes or negotiate with banks on whatever loans it wants to undertake.
However, Felcra must be mindful of its social responsibilities to the plantation owners under its scheme.
I have given it a directive that no matter what business dealings it has, Felcra must focus on bringing the targeted group, especially the 7,620 families living under the hardcore poor programme, above the poverty line.
We dont want Felcra to be so immersed in commercial ventures that it forgets its ultimate aim, he said, adding that under the Eighth Malaysian Plan, the country hoped to achieve zero poverty by 2008.
The MoU was inked between Rural Development Ministry secretary-general Datuk Azman Abdul Rashid and Felcra chairman Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin.
Azmi said the Government would still maintain full control in the entity under its investment arm Ministry of Finance Incorporated.
This is an assurance to all the plantation owners that their interests will continue to be protected. All appointments to the board of Felcra will still be carried out by us.
The ministry will also constantly monitor the movement of commodities like palm oil and rubber in the international markets so that any severe reduction in prices will not adversely affect the profits or turnover of Felcra Bhd, and ultimately, the income of the scheme owners, he said.
Felcra the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority was established as a statutory body in 1966.
Although it was originally corporatised on Sept 1, 1997 under Ministry of Finance Incorporated, the MoU was only signed yesterday.
Under the MoU, Felcra will have a start-up capital of RM1bil, with a paid-up capital of RM500mil.
Commenting on the seven-year delay, Azmi said it took time for the entity to rationalise its assets and distribute land titles to the Felcra land scheme owners.
There is nothing unusual in this as it took a long time for the Government to privatise companies like Telekom. Some of the scheme owners did not have land titles for their estate.
We also have to rationalise assets such as roads and infrastructure available in the estates. There is no other agenda besides this, he said.
Hamzah said Felcra had developed 234,000ha of plantations.
We have also been given the confidence by the ministry to be the marketing agent for products under the 'one village one industry' programme, he said.