Frankly Speaking: Rakyat the losers

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on January 7, 2019 - January 13, 2019.
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If there is one thing that can be learnt from the revelation by Minister of Primary Industries Teresa Kok on the transaction of a 2,330-acre tract in Sungai Buloh, it is that custodians of public funds need to have better accountability.

The Sungai Buloh land was sold by the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) to Aset Tanah Nasional Bhd (ATNB) — a special purpose vehicle (SPV) owned by the Ministry of Finance — in October 2010 for RM1.5 billion.

In July 2012, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) agreed to purchase the land for RM2.28 billion from ATNB, which means the SPV pocketed a profit of RM780 million. MRB chairman Sankara Nair said the board was “forced” to sell the land to ATNB, and it contended that it should be entitled to the profit.

In response, EPF said the price it paid for the land was fair and that it had no knowledge of any subsequent arrangements between MRB and ATNB.

Why didn’t EPF buy the land directly from MRB,  which could then have earned the RM780 million outright? Could the retirement fund have got a lower price if it had done so?

The land makes up the bulk of a 3,285-acre tract meant for the development of a mega township known as Kwasa Damansara. Kwasa Land Sdn Bhd, a unit of EPF, is the master developer of the project.

The 15-year development comprises affordable homes and other residential and commercial components and will have an eventual population of 150,000.

At the end of the day, it looks like the rakyat are the biggest losers again.

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