The Bangsar beef pie in the sky


It is understandable that Khairy Jamaluddin wants to defend fellow Umno ex-officio vice-president Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil over excess public funds for a cattle-farming project being used to buy a luxury condominium in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

It makes good financial sense. Get into real estate rather than livestock and see your money multiply quickly in the capital city’s upscale residential suburb.

Except, the money for the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) project wasn’t for such investments. The money is part of public funds for a project to reduce Malaysia’s dependence on beef imports.

And the NFC and the National Meat and Livestocks Corporation (NMLC), a management company owned by Shahrizat’s family, is in the business of cattle-farming, not real estate.

If Putrajaya wanted to make quicker money, it might as well play poker in the casinos. Or buy and sell properties in Bukit Tunku, Bangsar and Ampang to reduce the federal deficit.

The Umno Youth chief said today that when the government ran out of funds to develop satellite cattle farms, NMLC was left with surplus funds that had been disbursed to it and that it decided real estate investment was a good way to get returns.

“Should they have left the money in the current account which does not have a high yield while waiting for the satellite farms or should they have invested the money while waiting?” asked Khairy. “The management made a decision that the best return on investment would have been from real estate.”

He was referring to PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution’s statement yesterday that the luxury apartment at One Menerung, Bangsar, was recorded by NFC, a cattle-farming project managed by the minister’s family, as part of a RM83 million “loan” to the NMLC.

Khairy also said the condo has since been rented out and has also appreciated in value since it was purchased but did not specify the rental yield.

His explanation might make sense to Umno delegates at its annual congress at the end of November as much as one can believe there’s a pie in the sky but not to the public or even civil servants who have to account for every sen spent for specific projects.

If anything, Khairy’s stout defence of Shahrizat and her family, while admirable, only draws further scrutiny to the project that the government auditor said was “in a mess”.

Right now, the stench from the project has just become a lot more overwhelming.