Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cows in the condos

Where's the best place in Malaysia to rear cows? In condos, it would seem.

The cows-in-the-condo issue is the kind of scandal that the Najib administration does not need, especially now when the next general elections are to held within months.

Essentially the issue began when the Government approved a loan of RM250 million at an interest rate of 2% (i.e. a very soft loan) to the National Feedlot Corp (NFC), which happened to be controlled by family members of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Her husband Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Salleh Ismail and their three kids run the 'cattle' show.

Sure they started a cow business in the form of a cattle farm in Negri Sembilan, but somehow 'excess' cash was invested in two luxurious condos - each costing RM6.9 million -  in Bangsar which the NFC managers claim are cash cows since they generate rental income of RM18,000 each.

The entire issue was exposed not by the Opposition parties but a government agency - the Auditor-General had described NFC as a mess, and that it was poorly managed and had met only 41.1% of its target for 2010 in its latest report.

But Agriculture Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar quickly defended Shahrizat's family business and said that the project was a success and had met its targets.

Soon after that politicians from both sides of the divide jumped into the fray - the Barisan folks obviously defending Shahrizat and her family and the Pakatan blokes attacking them.

Malaysians who had no family connections with the top leaders merely tucked into their beef rendang or beef noodles and watched the proceedings.

This kind of 'family' business is exactly the type that most Malaysians are unhappy about since it benefits families of politicians only.

Thus the grouses of Malaysians - even from bumiputras - that they do not benefit from Government decisions would seemingly be justified.

One can argue that there is rental income and there is no loss. On the other hand, one can also argue that public funds meant for cattle rearing should not be invested in condos (unless, of course, one can rear cows in a condo).

But the fact remains that the entire cow business has smeared the reputation of the Barisan government especially with a Minister refuting the findings of a government agency tasked with auditing the finances and operations of the government.

With the elections coming soon, the Barisan government would need to lock up the 'cows' that are still in the closet while the Opposition - of course - would want to break the lock preventing all the 'cows' from stampeding out.

And the average Malaysians? They will still eat beef noodles and beef curry and beef rendang while waiting for more (cow) shit to hit the fan.

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