By CT Ali
Dec 05, 2013
Malay economic empowerment as promised by Umno is, for most Malays, fool’s gold!
What is happening in Malaysia today is the economic empowerment of a small number of well-connected Malays who have become insanely wealthy through the use of state and federal power to acquire business opportunities from the government, from other people and through the acquisition of assets other people created.
All these economic activities have been fully funded by banks and financial institutions under the control of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government.
These people are well entrenched in the economic and political hierarchies – positions critical to the financial well being of their corporations where the size of their debts to these financial institutions are of no consequence.
The largest of these corporate empires belongs to Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary- 8th richest Malaysian according to Forbes – with a debt of RM34 billion to match.
All this has been done at the cost of impoverishing the entire country. For now the Umno-led BN can hold it together but only just but not indefinitely. When the Umno-empowered economy fails, our country fails. Have no doubt about that!
Tell me which foreign investor would wish to invest in Malaysia once they know Umno as we know Umno?
Who would keep shelling out massive “rent seeking” outlay to politicians and their nominees just so they can trade “on a level playing field?”
What savvy business operatives would continue to pursue business opportunities with strings attached and without incentives?
I have sat in a corporate boardroom where the business of the day consists of earnest discussions between the board of directors of the company and the ‘Umno representative/chairman’ of the company.
The matter discussed? When can a meeting be arranged by the chairman for the company CEO to meet with relevant ministers or the prime minister to discuss the projects they can ‘negotiate’ in the coming months. Or which tender have been earmarked by Umno for the said company?
At RM20,000 a month plus expenses, the chairman has to earn his keep. He has been drawing his chairman’s fee for eight months without any return in sight – surely a worry for any corporation no matter its size.
Corruption and incompetence
The intent of the chairman (as he had quietly informed me at lunch) was that once the meeting was over, he would call for his driver and his company-provided Mercedes Benz and adjourn to a 5-Star hotel to meet with sahabats that walk the corridors of power in Putrajaya.
There they will discuss the coming weekend golfing trip to Jakarta and whether their preferred female caddy would be on duty that weekend.
If not, other arrangements must be made to make their time in Jakarta pleasant and conducive to discuss business opportunities each of them have in their portfolio.
Discussions in Jakarta are preferred to avoid the prying eyes of the locals in KL – so they say.
While some corporations willingly jump into bed with these Malay Mr-Fix-It, the Chinese are far more adept at bypassing or evading the economic empowerment of the Malays if it requires their participation.
Contrary to popular lore, it is the Chinese who are sought after by these Malays “to do business” and not the other way around.
Every changing of the guard within Umno sees the same Chinese corporate figures playing musical chairs with the incoming power that be. And always the Chinese are ahead in the matter of “value for money” invested in these Malays who have nothing to sell but their links to Umno.
The Chinese never allows greed (a human trait that abounds amongst many Umno Malays) to get in the way of a good business deal.
However hard it is becoming to logically defend the economic empowerment of any race, Umno persists in pushing for the continued economic empowerment of the Malays – the Umno Malays that is.
As for political power, Umno is using race to hold on to power. The beneficiaries of Umno’s policy in the BN government are Umno Malays and yet what Umno have promised the Malays are achievable if only corruption and incompetence did not get in the way.
Economic empowerment of the Malays is used as a vehicle to drive corruption and incompetence to the level required.
Corruption and incompetence are entrenched. One feed off the other. We are now experiencing the consequence of decades of corruption and incompetence and if any nation can be said to have a death wish – Malaysia has one.
How can any nation survive?
Competent companies without “meaningful” Malay participation are denied work. These participation comes at a minimum premium of 20% of the contract costs – a costs that the people have to bear.
“Other costs” are factored in after the award of the contract. If variation orders are unable to allow the main contractors to recoup their outlay, then invariably these contracts are not completed on time and within budget or simply abandoned.
This happens everyday in projects after projects, contracts after contracts and in every conceivable “business opportunities” that these opportunistic politicians can dream of.
Put simply the situation our nation is now in is untenable. The money from Petronas that contributes over 40% of our nations income continues to be the privy of our prime minster – the chief protagonist of this so called economic empowerment of the Umno Malays.
What this prime minister of ours will do with the money is his prerogative. People use their prerogative to do good, unfortunately our prime minister is not that way inclined.
All other financial authorities and institutions from the banks, Tabung Haji, Economic Planning Unit, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Employees Provident Fund and Permodalan Nasional Berhad are already compromised for Umno has no qualms in directing them to “assist” in the efforts of Umno to economically empower Malays in Umno.
Soon such distractions as race and religion can no longer be depended upon to rally the Malays against the non-existent threats from the Christians and the Chinese.
Soon there will be no more money for subsidies, no more money to prop up an unsustainable economy and critically for Umno, no more money for money politics.
We hope for the Malays to see that the economic empowerment promised to them by Umno is just fool’s gold.
For the others they already know that there will be no remarkable economic recovery as promised by Najib.
No social change or progress as envisaged in 1Malaysia. No long term vision, no innovative strategies and policies to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation. Only doom and gloom awaits.
CT Ali is a reformist who believes in Pakatan Rakyat’s ideologies. He is a FMT columnist.