KUALA LUMPUR: The government will announce several new approaches to benefit Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) settlers, next week, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He is also determined to implement immediate changes to Felda, especially regarding the net income of Felda settlers, so that they could get out of the hardcore poverty group.

“There are several approaches that I will announce from time to time... the latest is next week,” he told Bernama, in a special interview in conjunction with the Bumiputera Economic Congress 2024, recently.

Regarding Felda's declining performance, as reported in the Auditor-General's Report (LKAN) 2022, Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Rural and Regional Development Minister, said that the responsibility of restoring the federal agency will be seen in the aspect of settlers and companies under Felda.

“LKAN reports that Felda's financial position has deteriorated greatly; this audit report is for the 2022 financial year, which means that it is not under the current government. It is not a blame game and I don’t want to blame the other party.

“The responsibility to restore Felda is not seen in terms of Felda's production, (but) the focus must be on the settlers. Secondly, we should look at companies under Felda, such as FGV Holdings (FGV Holdings Bhd) and MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd,” he said.

The Auditor-General’s Report on the financial statements of federal agencies for the year 2022, tabled in Parliament on March 6, showed that Felda suffered an after-tax loss of RM1.005 billion.

Regarding the circular economy in Felda, he said that the concept is a new aspect which needs to be promoted, and Felda chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek presented it at the recent Bumiputera Economic Congress 2024.

“It means that whatever is used as a basic resource for Felda should be used, and not just thrown away.

“This is a source of income that can generate a new income. This is a new approach, being implemented by the new Felda chairman and supported by Felda’s top management,“ he said.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Zahid said that the government needs to think of a method to encourage industry in Felda so that the new generation of settlers does not migrate and urbanisation occurs.

“This opportunity can be created by providing incentives to domestic or foreign investors... given tax exemptions, if the industry is brought to the Felda area,” he said.

In addition, he said the aspect of digital transformation needs to be given attention in the Felda settlements because it is the main need for the second and third generations.

“Digitalisation has to be fair, especially in traditional villages and Felda settlements. They also have the right to get online education, because this is a new approach in the national education system,” he said.

On the issue of land ownership related to the heirs of Felda settlers, he said, “The Felda Act itself, we have received a proposal to amend the act, including in the matter of second generation ownership... Things like that should be looked at in more detail.” -Bernama