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Cows: The perennial Malaysian newsmaker

By DAVID MATHEW

Here are some facts about the humble cow.

I have not tried this myself but apparently cows can be lead upstairs but not downstairs because its knees cannot bend properly to walk down.

Also, cows spend six to eight hours eating each day.

Finally, cows have excellent senses of hearing and smell. They can hear high and low frequencies better than humans, and can detect smells from as far away as 8 kilometres.

From the infamous “cow head protest” in Shah Alam to the issue of the slaughtering of cows in schools and now to the maligned National Feedlot Centre project, it seems that cows are constantly in the news. So I thought it would be apt for everyone to get to know the cow a little better first.

Moving on.

According to the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) website, the National Feedlot Centre is the envisioned centre of production for beef and beef products in Malaysia.

The website also helpfully points out that as a High Impact Project under Ninth Malaysia Plan, National Feedlot Centre project will be instrumental in attaining the 40% self sufficiency for beef production by 2010.

We are also told that the NFC’s mission is to lead the industry in a manner that fosters excellence and integrity, improves the feedlot business environment and ensures the success of its community.

So far, so good. Very inspiring. Reading this, one wishes the NFC all the best of luck.

And for some time, NFC and its parent company, Agroscience Industries Sdn Bhd, had luck on their side.

That was the case until those pesky officers from the Auditor General’s office stopped by in March 2011 to determine if the project was being carried out appropriately and whether objectives were being met.

Turns out, the answer was no.

Instead of producing the targeted 8,000 cows in 2010, only 3,289 cows were produced. One of the main reasons cited was that the NFC had not carried out the mandated Entrepreneur Development Programme to train 130 satellite farm operators.

There was another rather big problem. You see, cows eat grass. The audit visit however discovered that instead of grass, much of the National Feedlot Centre area is filled with Acacia trees.

All this, according to the audit report, was despite the fact that RM134.72 million had already been channelled to the NFC.

Soon after the Auditor General’s Report was released, Pakatan Rakyat lawmakers raised hell accusing the entire project of being effectively steeped in corruption and cronyism.

Cue then the entrance of Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin who flew in to defend the project.

In the face of accusations that the NFC had, via its sister company National Meat and Livestocks Corporation (NMLC), used RM10 million to buy a condo in Bangsar, Khairy responded in his blog to say that this was true.

He however sought to justify the expenditure by saying that when the project was delayed due to no fault of the NFC, the management of the company had to make a decision as to what to do with the funds already channelled to it from a special borrowing account controlled by the Finance Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry.

According to Khairy, the management decided that rather than leave the monies in a low-yield fixed deposit account, it would be more prudent to invest it in property.

Khairy claims that this explanation is logical from a business standpoint.

There is actually a word I’m looking for to describe this explanation. Oh yes, I remember now. It’s actually two words – cow dung.

Public money was pumped into the project for one purpose and that is to meet the National Beef Output Policy. The said policy had only two main objectives, namely to increase the number of cows and to increase the output of beef.

Property investment was not one of the objectives and the Government should not condone such things.

Anyway NFC’s stated Vision is to be a ‘premier world class halal beef producer’ and not a world class halal beef producer cum part-time property investor during operational delays.

If a businessman obtains a loan specifically let’s say for his chicken business, he has no business using that money to head out and buy a Picasso painting just because the local authority has not issued him a licence. The bank would smack him if they heard what he was up to.

What if the project suddenly takes off in the midst of a property slump and there is no buyer for the condo unit?

Would anybody be volunteering to put the RM10 million back into the project?

If the NFC really felt that they ought to be proactive during the operational delay, there are a number of more acceptable things they could have done.

They could maybe start by spending money chopping off the Acacia trees.

Alternatively if they really like those Acacia trees, they could put in money for research and development into creating tree-climbing cows which would presumably be cows that can bend their knees properly.

Or how about hiring and training a team of expert masseurs?

Apparently, the world famous Kobe beef is so tender because each of the Japanese Wagyu cattle is pampered with daily massages. The idea here is that relaxed cows result in good beef.

These cattle are also fed beer but since this would not then be halal, perhaps money could be put into research and development for a good beer alternative.

Every year either from the Auditor-General or elsewhere we keep hearing uncomfortable things about the way public money is being spent.

In the face of a possible global recession, it is time for us to give public monies the respect it deserves. If you cannot do this, then get lost. You do not deserve the money.

 

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