ISKANDAR PUTERI, Johor: The Johor state government has launched a stimulus package to help Felda (Federal Land Development Authority) landowners on Malay reserve land.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday (Mar 11), newly installed Johor Chief Minister Hasni Mohammad told reporters that the package will expand the number of "Malay Felda landowners" who may benefit from a 50 per cent land tax subsidy.
Mr Hasni, who chaired the new state government's first executive council meeting earlier on Wednesday, added that previously, Felda settlers who owned up to 4ha of Malay reserve land in Johor qualified for a 50 per cent subsidy in land tax.
However, the Johor state government has decided that those who own up to 5ha of Malay reserve land will now qualify for the subsidy.
"We are confident that more Felda settlers and the rural folks will benefit from this announcement," said Mr Hasni.
Earlier on Wednesday before Mr Hasni's announcement, the ruler of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar posted on Facebook, drumming up anticipation for Mr Hasni's announcement.
"There is good news coming up for the people of Johor that will soon be announced by the Chief Minister," said Sultan Ibrahim.
Mr Hasni later confirmed that the expansion for the tax subsidy to more landowners was the good news Sultan Ibrahim was referring to.
Sultan Ibrahim had met Mr Hasni at Bukit Pelangi Palace in Johor Bahru before the chief minister chaired the executive council meeting on Wednesday.
Johor has 73 Felda settlements, covering 13 parliamentary and 21 state constituencies.
The southern state has the second-largest area for Felda settlements in the country.
TOURISM BOOST AMID COVID-19
In addition, Mr Hasni said that the state government is set to implement measures to boost tourism in Johor amid a sluggish economy and the spread of COVID-19.
He said that the tourism tax receipts collected will be redistributed to tourism companies and organisations in the state.
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He noted that major hotel chains in the state "have suffered" and to boost their businesses, state government programmes and events will be held in these hotels.
"The tourism industry has been attacked and we want to help in any way we can," added Mr Hasni.
Moreover, he added that health monitoring efforts at the land border checkpoints with Singapore will continue to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Johor.
Currently, all travellers entering Johor Bahru through Bandar Sultan Iskandar at Woodlands Checkpoint or Sultan Abu Bakar Complex at Tuas Checkpoint are forced to undergo temperature screening.
In February, a handful of COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Johor, comprising individuals who had arrived from Singapore.
Mr Hasni added that the state government was ready to help boost monitoring efforts at the checkpoints if needed.
However, Mr Hasni stressed that the 2020 SUKMA Games, an inter-state national sports event scheduled to be held in Johor in July, would proceed as planned despite fears of the spread of COVID-19 in Malaysia.
He said authorities were monitoring the situation he was hopeful that the event will continue, especially since athletes and organisers are in their final stages of preparation.
Moreover, Mr Hasni said the new state government has decided to rehabilitate the Kim Kim River in south Johor.
In March 2019, illegal dumping of toxic waste into the river resulted in pollution impacting thousands of people, including many school children in Pasir Gudang.
Almost a year on, Mr Hasni hopes to clean the river to ensure that no more pollution incidents take place and restore the other rivers it is connected to, including the Johor River.
"We want to prevent environmental pollution and we want to ensure that what happened at Pasir Gudang does not happen again," he added.