A new direction for the ‘new Malays’ in new Malaysia


December 27, 2018

A new direction for the ‘new Malays’ in new Malaysia

by  Dr .Rais Hussin

 

COMMENT | A paradigm, according to science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, is based on consensus. He showed that science was not a mere accumulation of facts through trial and error, but what scientists agreed to be correct.

But Kuhn also argued that all paradigms can be disrupted. And, when they are, the previous paradigm collapses. Sociologist Daniel Bell called this the “end of ideology.” This means when an old paradigm has lost its explanatory and prescriptive value, a new one will naturally supplant and displace it.

In a way, policy makers here have been attempting the same since the country came into being, by revising and challenge each five-year plan. Of late, this can be seen in the midterm review of the 11th Malaysia Plan. One can also include the Bumiputera Empowerment Congress in September.

Since the National Economic Policy formed the backbone of economic planning, the review of any plans or vision documents tends to echo its gold standard. However, this has been corroded by Umno; all that glittered turned out not to be gold, so how can the NEP be trudged out to create a new paradigm?

Under the rule of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, all GLICs were allowed to improve their balance sheets by going abroad. Once there, however, instead of harnessing FDI into the country, these GLICs tried to find greener pastures for themselves.

Felda Global Ventures and Mara went on a buying spree of hotels in the UK and Australia. Even fugitive financier Low Taek Jho did the same in the US until the kleptocratic ruse was uncovered by Sarawak Report and the Wall Street Journal.

When Najib Abdul Razak took over from Abdullah in 2009, he created 1MDB to borrow heavily  with the financial guarantees of the government to make a success out of Bandar Malaysia. By building it in an already congested section of the city, Najib was crowding out other good investments and making them more costly.

To the degree 1MDB was affected by controversy its debt and liabilities were absorbed by the Finance Ministry. When it could no longer handle the toxic assets and balance sheets, Tabung Haji and other GLICs, even Bank Negara, were brought in to bail it out. Even the National Audit Department was said to have altered its report on the investment firm.

The Umno paradigm

Regardless of what was done and how, and by whom, Umno’s larger justification has always been the self-serving agenda to protect the party elite, rather than the Malays. By focusing on themselves, Umno lost touch with its roots, and failed to protect the provisions of Article 153.

Then Umno resorted to importing cheap labour into Malaysia to keep wages down. Malays were the first to be affected. But Umno couldn’t have cared less, and allowed more and cheaper labour to swarm in, depriving Malays of the right to enjoy liveable wages.

The fact is this though: neither the administrations of Badawi, with his “fourth-floor boys”, or Najib, with his “kitchen cabinet”, knew how to protect the Malays. If they did, several oddities would not have pervaded in the system from top to bottom.

First, a select few controlled most of the financial liquidity of Permodalan Nasional Berhad. These were fair-weather investors, who would bail at the slightest smell of trouble. This is how Malays betray Malays, when plutocrats look after their own material interests, and not that of the Malay laity.

Indeed, if PNB did not offer yields at above market rate, the elites of Umno would have parked their cash elsewhere, even if such a move would destroy the fund’s financial liquidity. The modus operandi of these investors was “me first”, and the rest of Malays last.

Secondly, there are 94 bumiputera development agencies, which spawned 1,137 companies. Yet to date, aside from Mara, there is no telling of these agencies’ annual returns. These agencies clearly have become dishevelled, disorganised and disrupted.

Third, research seems to suggest that since the introduction of the NEP in 1970s, Malays only own 18 percent of corporate entities. Remove the equity participation of institutional investors, and this falls to an abysmally low five percent.

Nor is the goal of 30 percent going to be reached, since Malays tend to want to sell their shares and equities as and when they have made a profit. This is the proverbial moving of goalposts – a weak measure of what Malays can achieve or truly own in perpetuity.

And when the goal cannot be reached, Malays assume others are sticking a knife in their corporate portfolios, when in fact it is Umno cheating them, bringing to mind the Malay saying, “Harapkan pagar, pagar makan padi”. Umno embodied the worst form of this, which is why Malaysia devolved into a kleptocracy, before Pakatan Harapan managed to stop the rot.

Fourth, an NEP-centric document that is numerically tagged to 30 percent may not be a good thing – especially with Umno’s manipulations, which includes keeping the wealth among the elite. By creating a false positive balance sheet economy, Umno was pulling the wool over the people’s eyes, at least until May 9.

Globalisation a must

The fact of the matter is, Malays and Malaysia must globalise. And the economic conditions must become more varied and complex, and not driven by how Umno pads the accounts.

For example, the World Economic Forum listed the top ten risks of doing business in the current international economic system. The United State has its lowest unemployment in 49 years, the European Union in 43 years and Japan in 25 years. But the midterm review of the 11th Malaysian plan seems oblivious to the external situations abroad.

Malaysia has come a long way form 1957 with its US$314 billion GDP, and it can go further. But this is premised on good governance and nimble, effective and strong economic statecraft–not just within the country, but in consonance with the world.

The US Federal Reserve Bank, for instance, has approved eight interest hikes in the last two years alone. The era of cheap money can and will disappear in the next one to two years, if interest rates in Washington continue to rise.

The global economy is also going through more revolutions in apps, algorithm, analytics and automation, which will lead to more Sino-US trade rivalry as both compete to become dominant in these fields.

None of these is apparent in the NEP, the 11th Malaysia Plan nor its midterm review. Yet, Malaysia is right in the thick of these disruptive technologies, as it is the 17th largest trading state in the world, as well as China’s One Belt One Road initiative.

New Malays in a new Malaysia must take these disruptions into account instead of insisting on perpetual protection from the state. In a honeycomb economy, any app can theoretically disrupt old supply chains – Airbnb allowing tourists to circumvent the front desks of hotels, BMW’s DriveNow dismantling notions of ownership, and EdX allowing students to bypass enrolment in formal universities.

A new country

If Malaysia does not try to think of new ways to become a new country, one that can adapt to the latest digital disruptions, a mere fetish with NEP – which has become a vehicle for rent-seeking and corruption to enrich the Umno elite – will only cause resentment among the other 99.5 percent of Malays.

If anything, May 9 was an indication of how mad the rakyat can get when wealth does not trickle down.

As things stand, there are 113,000 Felda settlers, of which 32,000 have been receiving cost of living aid. While they wait, the prices of palm oil will not go up anytime soon, since China has agreed to buy US soybean in order to prevent the collapse of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Little wonder palm oil is doing badly. Workers from Felda have to think of new ways to make a breakthrough. It is also important to diversify new markets for palm oil, including, but not limited to, Russia, Eastern Europe, and South Asia.

New Malays must have the strategic mentality to go where returns are highest, even before GLCs have found the first breakthrough. There are four ways Malays can change. As rudimentary as it may sound, they have to assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Strength can be derived from the willingness to defend their honour, after years of being spoiled by Najib. Nothing is more powerful than the will and tenacity to change or turn over a new leaf.

But just as some are committed to turning over a new leaf, weaknesses lie in certain quarters like Umno and PAS luring people back to the racial and kleptocratic ways of old in time for the 15th general election.

Now that Malaysia has ditched the kleptocracy and kakistocracy, new opportunities are opening up for the likes of Bersatu to field more qualified and capable candidates in GLCs, GLICs and even thinktanks. The party must not lose this once in a lifetime chance. Appointing qualified and capable candidates, rather than mere politicians, is key towards recalibrating Malay minds.

The threats come in the form of the pseudo-Islam peddled by some in PAS, and increasingly, Umno – evident in the PAS Youth Chief’s dictate against the celebration of Christmas.

When Malays can engage, and work with those from any race across the aisle, there is no stopping Malaysia from becoming a major strategic power in Asean.


RAIS HUSSIN is a supreme council member of Bersatu. He also heads its policy and strategy bureau.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

Cut out middlemen and save billions – and the rakyat


June 19, 2018

Cut out middlemen and save billions – and the rakyat

by P Gunasegaram
QUESTION TIME |Coming in the wake of the decisive election victory for Pakatan Harapan, the Ramadan bazaar scandal in Jalan Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur is a clear indication of the kind of corrupt patronage middlemen deals that the coalition has to face and overcome as it moves forward.

 

Such deals where political clout is used to dish out projects to essentially middlemen who subsequently just palm it off to others for huge profits is one of the major forms of leakage the economy is currently facing.

Most of the projects may be small but the same process is repeated in large contracts too where the company that gets the project oftentimes does not have any expertise in the project area and simply gets in partners from elsewhere, earning a fat commission in the process for basically doing nothing but getting the project in.

If the government had long ago stopped such middlemen from profiteering at the expense of nation and rakyat, we would be in much better shape now. But instead, such deals worsened with outright kleptocracy, using 1MDB to first borrow funds and then steal from it. It is now incumbent upon Harapan to bring about such a change, nothing less.

The Ramadan bazaar is an excellent case study of middlemen pilferage and how politicians and authorities facilitated it. According to the exclusive report by Malaysiakini, a Bersatu party leader used political connections via a DAP MP who issued a “letter of support” for the Ramadan bazaar in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

‘Letter of support’

The Bukit Bintang Bersatu Youth chief, Mohd Noorhisyam Abd Karim, secured approval from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to organise the bazaar with this “letter of support” from DAP Bukit Bintang MP and DAP treasurer Fong Kui Lan. A letter from DBKL to Mohd Noorhisyam, which had gone viral on social media, showed that 80 lots were approved for nine days for RM6,238.

This included a payment of RM180 per lot (RM20 per day) for licensing, space and cleaning fees for the bazaar which stretched from the Mydin hypermarket in Pudu to Masjid India. In the Ramadan bazaar case, the government got a little over RM6,000, while the middleman allegedly could have pocketed RM400,000 from the sale of the 80 lots at RM5,000, each making an incredible 66 times his initial outlay.

This is classic UMNO-style patronage politics at its worst which worrisomely, has infected Harapan so early in its term of office. It has to get rid of this forthwith if it is to make plenty of savings from procurement contracts and get revenue for the government directly instead of much of it going to middlemen.

Fong, while admitting he issued the “letter of support”, told Malaysiakini that Mohd Noorhisyam promised him that no money would be collected. “He promised they would not collect money and they would not obstruct the shops. I gave him a support letter to help hawkers who could not get a license from DBKL,” said the five-term MP.

Fong also denied receiving a cut from Mohd Noorhisyam or his associates.

Meanwhile, DBKL hawker licensing and development department director Anwar Mohd Zain told Malaysiakini that City Hall was unaware that Mohd Noorhisyam was allegedly charging exorbitant fees for the bazaar lots.

Mohd Noorhisyam has since denied the allegations against him and told Malaysiakini that he had not taken any money from traders.

Still, there is vital explanation required. Why does DBKL have to issue lots through a third party? Why does Bukit Bintang MP Fong need to issue a “letter of support” to a middleman, when he could have done it directly to DBKL? What is the role of Mohd Noorhisyam in all these, especially when DBKL could have issued the lots directly to traders through a bidding cum draw?

Nefarious activities

If true, such an outlandish profit came from the poor stallholders who were trying to make some money during Ramadan but whose profits would have been massively scaled back by the RM5,000 they had to shell out for the nine-day period, equivalent to a massive RM555 a day.

That shows the nature of the greed of these unscrupulous people who during the holy month of Ramadan, fleece RM400,000 of their own kind who are poor and struggling to make ends meet. Where is their moral and religious conscience?

Think of things like these repeated many thousands of time all over Malaysia at local and district levels and the billions pilfered or lost. Think of all the hassle that people who are trying to make a living with small businesses suffer at the hands of enforcement agencies such as DBKL scattered throughout the country.

Think of all the bribes they have to pay and the harassment they get even if they are fully compliant with all council regulations and think of all the rules and regulations flouted by those who “pay” the authorities regularly.

Think of all the revenue that the government, state and local authorities can raise if they directly, properly, efficiently and cleanly allocate precious resources without resorting to politically-connected businesspersons and those willing to grease palms.

Harapan now controls seven out of 11 state governments in the peninsula while Sarawak and Sabah are already in the hands of parties now friendly to Harapan. Together they can draw up and implement measures throughout the country to ensure that everything is run in the interest of the rakyat and the government – and profiteering is no longer allowed at any level via middlemen.

Indeed, those who are involved in such nefarious activities must be brought to book and the weight of the law brought to bear upon them without discrimination from the largest to the smallest projects.

 

For those states still ruled by parties other than Harapan, the call should be made to follow the example of the other states in the award of all contracts and for all procurement. If they don’t, the warning should be issued that the police and the MACC will be on the lookout for any malpractices and will bring miscreants swiftly to the book.

Proper procedure

This does not mean sidelining bumiputera entrepreneurs and companies but ensuring that they really are that and not acting as middlemen for others and that they actually have the capacity to undertake projects and that they are actually needed to do the job.

Genuine bumiputera contractors who bid for the job could be given a small price advantage as part of the continuation of affirmative action programmes and other advantages, much like what some government agencies currently did for bona fide bumiputera contractors in the past.

This is not an abandonment of Malay rights or privileges provided for under the constitution but actually a reinforcement of that through a proper procedure which weeds out profiteering that only benefits middlemen at the expense of real bumiputera entrepreneurs as it was with this Ramadan bazaar incident.

Harapan has a responsibility to ensure that incidents such as this Ramadan bazaar spectacle never happens anywhere again and that all blood-sucking middlemen are removed forthwith from the scene. Doing so would not only save the country billions of ringgit but ensure that the rakyat benefits from the proper use and allocation of scarce government resources.

We did not vote in Harapan for another new crop of leeches coming up to suck the nation and the rakyat dry. Such notions must be suitably disabused by quick action over the Ramadan bazaar case to bring to account everyone involved – politician, middleman and the overseeing authority.

Otherwise, Harapan is going to lose credibility pretty fast.

 


P GUNASEGARAM says that being in government is more onerous than being in opposition. He hopes fervently that Harapan will rise to the occasion and not succumb to the habits of old. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

MARA: Stop being an albatross around Malay Entrepreneurs


February 17, 2017

MARA: Stop being an albatross around Malay Entrepreneurs

“…there is something wrong with Mara. From business to education, it seems to be making all the wrong moves. It needs to have more faith in bumiputeras. Bumiputeras cannot flourish or advance themselves in spaces closed off to other races and cultures. Mara must recognise that bumiputeras are not just competing with other Malaysians, but also the citizens of the world. It must lead, not stubbornly cling to the old ways.–Syukri Tahir

Mara is one of the most important and respected institutions in Malaysia. Since its formation in 1966, it has helped countless thousands of bumiputeras succeed in business and industry. But has Mara adapted enough to remain relevant and effective today? Sadly, I don’t think so.

Image result for MARA

I say this because Mara seems more interested in protecting bumiputeras from the world than letting them compete in it. This is a recipe for stagnation and backwardness. Take the Mara Digital Mall, for example – it was set up as a bumiputera alternative to Low Yat Plaza. What exactly has it achieved?

Because it was created and promoted as a platform for bumiputera IT traders, non-bumiputera customers have largely stayed away, choosing to shop at Low Yat instead. How are bumiputera traders supposed to survive – let alone thrive – when their customers are only limited to one race?

I recently paid a visit to the Mara Digital Mall in Kuala Lumpur and found the traders to be demoralised. Many shops had stock shortages, confirming what traders told online news portal Free Malaysia Today last December. If you want to buy anything, you will have to pre-order in advance. Rather serve as a vehicle for bumiputera empowerment, the mall may well turn out to be an embarrassment to bumiputera entrepreneurs.

Image result for Minister Ismail Sabri is an idiotMinister Ismail Sabri from Pahang

Mara’s short-sightedness also extends to education. Recently, now suspended Mara chairperson Annuar Musa said that UniKL, which is wholly-owned by Mara, recognises the Chinese-education-based Unified Examinations Certificate (UEC) as an entry qualification. He correctly bases this on long-standing government policy. Because UniKL is a private institution of higher learning rather than a public one, it is allowed to recognise the UEC.

Image result for MARASuspended MARA Chairman

In recognising the UEC, Annuar saw an excellent opportunity to grow UniKL, expand the diversity of its students, and give it an international outlook. Sadly, the rest of Mara disagreed with him, including the minister who oversees the institution – Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Annuar has the right idea, but he got into trouble for speaking it. How can Mara advance the cause of bumiputeras if Mara’s leadership can’t even see or comprehend the bigger picture?

They need to realise a few things. UEC recognition will allow us to keep talented Chinese-educated students in the country instead of having them leave for places like Taiwan and Singapore. Also, it will boost race relations and national unity because campuses will have students of different races and backgrounds.

It would not make sense to reject the UEC when prestigious universities around the world – from Australia to the UK to the United States – recognise it. The UEC is accepted at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge. If these are considered role models in education, then why shouldn’t UniKL follow in their example?

Furthermore, UEC students will expand the revenue base of UniKL and Mara. After all, Mara only sponsors bumiputera students – non-bumiputeras will have to pay, enhancing Mara’s ability to sponsor even more bumiputera students. In the end, it is bumiputeras who benefit the most from UEC recognition.

But as you can see, there is something wrong with Mara. From business to education, it seems to be making all the wrong moves. It needs to have more faith in bumiputeras. Bumiputeras cannot flourish or advance themselves in spaces closed off to other races and cultures. Mara must recognise that bumiputeras are not just competing with other Malaysians, but also the citizens of the world. It must lead, not stubbornly cling to the old ways.

Malaysian Civil Service: Can they think, raise the right issues, and do things right?


May 20, 2016

Malaysian Civil Service: Can they think, raise the right issues, and do things right?

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

No one of substance in government is bold enough to raise the right issues as most prefer wallowing in self-consolation hoping things will eventually self-correct.

by TK Chua

There is a management thought that says we must be honest and bold enough to raise the right issues or to ask the right questions. If we do not have the right questions, it does not matter much that we have the right answers. Right answers to wrong questions are useless.

1MDB is Malaysia’s Najib-inspired Blue Ocean Strategy Bull

Today, Malaysia is reeling from the reality that no one of any substance in government is bold enough to raise the right issues or ask the right questions as most prefer wallowing in self-consolation, hoping things will eventually self-correct. Rarely do they rock the boat and challenge the established paradigm. Instead, they pretend to support every phoney reform undertaken – from Pemandu, BR1M, BRAM, BROOM, NBOS  Initiatives (watch video above), to GST and all the baloney that takes place in GLCs (e.g. 1MBD).

Malaysia’s Top Civil Servant with his Brains Trust

We know from history it is never easy to reform a system or a country from within. The death of the Qing dynasty and the French Revolution convey the same story – failed reforms.

People in power usually cannot see it or refuse to see it. They become insensitive and insular to the needs of others. Hence, while many in the country are struggling to get by, the ruling elite shamelessly and effortlessly indulge in obscene extravagance even for a simple event like a birthday or wedding celebration. We used to laugh at Marie Antoinette’s infamous “let them eat cake” joke, but I don’t think we have ever learnt anything worthwhile from it.

Why do I say we are addressing the wrong issues? Let me list a few examples:

i. We use the GST to perpetuate our wasteful ways, not instill financial discipline and prudence in the public sector. The GST, therefore, will not solve our fiscal unsustainability problems. It will not help stabilise and strengthen the ringgit. It will only reinforce the government’s spendthrift ways.

ii. Pemandu did not transform the government machinery.Like any bureaucracy, it only added more outfits and programmes to it and drains  our national coffers. Therefore, it will only incur more expenses but with no efficiency gained.

iii. National development is not about issuing bonds or raising debts, setting up giant corporations and listing GLCs that the earlier generations have taken decades to nurture and build. Why are we indulging in buying, investing, selling, restructuring, paying off debts, and renegotiating with “partners” endlessly? Why instead of creating value, are we moving from one protracted problem to another? This is worse than children playing the game of monopoly.

iv. Foreign workers are supposed to come here to supplement our needs, not dictate the “production function” of this country. Now we have Malaysians leaving the country in droves while foreigners are allowed indiscriminate entry. In the process, our value chain goes down the drain and our way of life turns upside down.

v. We keep saying the future of this country is in the hands of the young. But what future have we created for them – an increasing pool of unemployed and unemployable graduates?

vi. We were told to be magnanimous and live in harmony, but every day we are reminded of protests over altars here, tokongs there and the general lack of piousness everywhere. If we are so godly, why are we so filthy and depraved? Why are we experiencing mass food poisoning so often? Why are our children so prone to mass hysteria? Why are our women subjected to snatch theft, attempted rape and rape so often? I know what you are thinking – when compared to other countries, Malaysia is not so bad. Maybe that is why some say we are good in jumping on the spot.

vii. Our idea of multiculturalism is when one marries a spouse of a different race or religion. Our racial tolerance is to adopt a son or daughter from another race or foster a child of another race. Our idea of inclusiveness is to produce a video portraying groups of different racial backgrounds dancing or singing together for a GLC’s advertisement or a national event. However, in our daily life, we don’t care whether our policies are fair and just.

When push comes to shove, we just hoist our flag of race and religious supremacy. We just need to divert blame onto others – and cry out at how others have tried to sabotage and undermine our vital interests; how we must be ever vigilant to keep them in the box.

I think it is enough for now. You may add on to the list if you want.*

*There is no need to add to Mr. Chua’s list. We must take the blame because we continue to allow an incompetent UMNO-BN government led by the corrupt Prime Minister Najib Razak to operate. We are indifferent and do not have the guts to sack the Prime Minister and his cabal who are in charge of our national coffers. To make matters worse, we have  a political opposition which will do the same if they are given the opportunity, that is, they can be equally arrogant and corrupt. We are already a failed state.

Only a failed people will want the status quo. So, our voters will allow  UMNO-BN to win the forthcoming by-elections in Kuala Kangsar and Sungei Besar like they did in Sarawak recently. We deserve the government we get. –Din Merican

MARA get your priorities right


May 7, 2015

Phnom Penh by The Mekong

MARA get your priorities right

by Dato Noor Farida Ariffin@www.thestar.com.my

Dato Noor FaridaLIKE many Malaysians, I am appalled at Mara’s decision to offer a “second chance” to Nur Fitri Azmeer, the Imperial College of London student who was convicted by a British court last week for possession of child pornography.

In spite of the conviction for this heinous crime, Mara has described Nur Fitri as an “exemplary student” and offered him a place at any of its institutions of higher learning after he completes his five-year jail sentence in the United Kingdom.

Clearly, the people running Mara have a warped sense of values. Don’t they realise that education is not solely about getting excellent academic results but also about building character and instilling good moral values in the students?

This particular student has been convicted of a very serious crime, that of possession of over 30,000 hardcore porn images involving young children which shocked and repulsed even the hardened officers of the special paedophile squad of the British police.

In addition, when the Police raided his room, he was found with a life-size mannequin of a boy.Nur Fitri Azmeer is obviously a pervert and for Mara to make excuses for his actions is totally repugnant and unacceptable. Sadly, MARA seems to have lost its moral compass.

Nur Fitri AzmeerThis student has a very serious problem which needs to be treated.He should not be released into society until he has received treatment and a team of psychiatrists has certified that he has been completely cured of his condition. Otherwise, from mere possession of paedophile porn, he might graduate to physically acting out his sexual fantasies and pose a real danger to children.

MARA, instead of offering him a place to continue his studies, could help him by ensuring that he receives the treatment that he needs. Only after he has been cured should MARA offer him assistance to pursue his studies. MARA needs to get its priorities right.