Malaysian PM announces largest ever windfall for plantation settlers
Kuala Lumpur, May 8 (Xinhua-ANI): Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Tuesday 1.68 billion ringgit (549.82 million U. S. dollars) windfall for the indigenous plantation settlers ahead of looming polls and a planned corporate listing of state-owned plantation operator, Felda Global Ventures Holdings.
Felda Global is a commercial arm of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), an agency that grants the rural poor indigenous and ethnic Malay smallholder farms to grow cash crops.
Felda is the world's biggest plantation entity with 850,000 hectares of oil palms.
The announcement made at a Felda settlement in Malaysia's Pahang state, Najib's hometown, drew applause from some tens of thousands of settlers.
Najib said the each family of the 112,635 Felda settlers will get 15,000 ringgit (4,909 U.S. dollars) in three payments.
The government has habitually distributed 500 to 1,000 ringgit (163.63-327.27 U.S. dollars) cash to Felda settlers as bonuses in special occasions or festivals over the years.
But the windfall declare on Tuesday was the highest ever to be dished out as Felda Global planned to list itself on the Malaysian bourse next month.
Under the plan announced last October, Felda Global would seek to sell 2.19 billion shares and raise more than 3 billion U.S. dollars in what would be one of the world's biggest flotations this year.
The plantation operator has started offering its initial public offering shares to the indigenous"Bumiputera" investors at a price of about 1.53 U.S. dollar a share.
Bumiputera, which translates to"sons of soil"in Bahasa Malaysia, refers to the majority ethnic Malays and natives in the country that make up about 67 percent of the population.
The listing of Felda Global had earlier triggered protests by settlers who own part of the company for fear of losing control over the asset in which they have invested.
Analysts said the handouts came as part of the government's move to earn support for the elections widely speculated to be called in June.
The settlers, who have in the past complained about low dividend payout from Felda's profits and unfair negotiations they were caught in, are a traditional vote bank for the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party. (Xinhua-ANI)
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