Writing off Felda’s debt with sukuk is nothing new, says its former director

(MMO) – Former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) director Rasman Ithnain has poured cold water on politicians who claim they introduced the move to write-off the settlers’ debts by issuing sukuk.

Rasman, who was also a former Sedili assemblyman, said efforts to cancel Felda’s annual RM1 billion debts began in 2021, Utusan Malaysia reported today.

He also refuted another Felda director Datuk Nazri Ngah who recently claimed that the government’s bid to cancel the agency’s RM8.3 billion debt pile was only on paper.

“If you want proof, look at the Felda settlers’ slips and you’ll see deductions since 2011,” he was quoted as saying in the Malay daily.

According to Rasman, to complete the documents required for the move is a lengthy process of about one year that involves lawyers and the Finance Ministry.

He suggested that the prime minister and the minister in charge of Felda speak directly to the settlers to find out first hand how their debts can be cancelled and not do so through a third-party.

Last Friday, the Anwar government approved an annual allocation of up to RM1 billion for 10 years starting this year to ensure the Felda’s survival.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the finance minister, said the delay in fund distribution for the Felda sukuk previously was due to the government having to meet its commitment in stimulus package financing.

Last Sunday, the Finance Ministry announced the approval of a government guarantee for the Felda issue up to RM9.9 billion sukuk. The ministry also said the funds aim to cancel the settlers’ RM8.3 billion debts.

Sukuk is the Islamic version of bonds.