Tun Abdul Razak: Land for the landless

Fruits of his labour: Thanks to Tun Razak’s vision, Felda is currently listed as the world’s No.3 palm plantation operator, while Felda Global Ventures is described as the world’s biggest crude palm oil producer. — Photos: AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

Tun Abdul Razak’s vision of helping the poor has grown into one of the world’s most successful land development plans.

OF the many institutions Tun Abdul Razak Hussein set up, few are as closely linked to his vision of rural development and poverty eradication as the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

Felda was born from Tun Razak’s dream of “land for the landless” and “jobs for the jobless” to help provide a better future for a then poverty-stricken rural community.

Formed on July 1, 1956 with the passing of the Land Development Act, Felda was tasked with resettling the landless, rural poor in newly developed land schemes to cultivate oil palm and rubber.

It has since grown to become one of the world’s most successful land development programmes with 112,635 participants.

“The Authority should aim to provide opportunities to those living by the margins, to those who have initiative, rather than to provide charity.

A worker harvest oil palm fruits at Felda Sahabat in Lahad Datu.AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star (25/2/2013)

“The best land for the best people should be the basic principle,” was how Tun Razak described Felda’s purpose.

Despite various challenges during its early years, the pace of land development Felda undertook steadily grew.

In the First Malaysia Plan from 1966 to 1970 for example, a total of 72,474ha of land was developed.

The figure more than doubled by the Fourth Malaysia Plan to 168,029ha in the five-year period from 1981-1985.

By 1990 Felda had managed to develop 350,000ha of land, at which point the Government stopped the intake of new settlers.

A worker collects oil palm fruits at Felda Sungai Tengi Selatan plantation in Sungai Tengi, 100 km (62 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur June 22, 2012. Shares in Malaysian palm oil firm Felda Global are expected to rise sharply on their trading debut on Thursday, underscoring the pent-up demand generated in the world’s second largest IPO after Facebook’s rocky initial offering. Picture taken June 22, 2012. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (MALAYSIA - Tags: BUSINESS COMMODITIES)

In 1994 the Government stopped channelling allocations to Felda, which was asked to generate its own income. To meet the challenge Felda set up a number of corporate entities to complete its core value chain activities.

Among the biggest today are Koperasi Permodalan Felda, Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd (FGV) and Felda Investment Corporation. Felda’s estates were developed at a total cost of RM4.7bil but by 2008 it had managed to generate a total net income that exceeded development cost by RM3.7bil.

Today, Felda is listed as the world’s No.3 palm plantation operator, while FGV is described as the world’s biggest crude palm oil producer.

Felda’s many successes are a testimony to Tun Razak’s legacy of helping the poor and landless, for which he will always be remembered as Malaysia’s Father of Development.

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