In the budget for 2018, there is an allocation of RM200 million for Felda to help with upgrading of infrastructure. Which brings to mind the 1990s.
Going back to those times, the main challenge facing Felda was that the government terminated their financial support for Felda. Before this, government allocation was between RM70-140 million per year. We needed to reduce administrative costs of the Authority without retrenching staff and we needed to find the means to repay the government loan. At that time, Felda still owed the government RM4 billion (including outstanding loans from settlers of RM100 million, forgiveness for development costs of areas of 6-8 acres totaling RM130 million and reduction of development costs for rubber of 10 acres amounting RM300 million). The government decided that Felda had to be self-sustaining and would no longer receive government funding for operations. So, the Felda authority trimmed its staff and transferred many of them to the self sustaining Felda companies.
It was also during the 1990s that Felda’s role as replanting agent came to the forefront. The cost of replanting by Felda was high, due to the repayment of subsistence loan taken by settlers, and the aging settlers themselves were not willing or able to physically participate, causing the need to employ paid labour.
Fortunately, through a lot of financial discipline by the end of 1998, the loan to the government and to the World Bank had been reduced to RM2.88 billion and Felda was self sustaining. By the time I retired in 2001, its loan to the government had been paid in full.