Sunday, September 14, 2003

Malays must alter economic mindset

By Mazilan bin Musa, Senior Fellow & Director, Institute of Islamic Understanding, Malaysia

I HAVE just finished watching Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad deliver his speech on TV in conjunction with the country’s 46th Independence Day and I guess this would be his last Merdeka speech as a Prime Minister.

Like most of his speeches, Dr Mahathir tries to drive home a persisting issue into our thick, stubborn skulls.

This time, I sense that his speech was full of reminders for all of us, especially and specifically for the Malays.

The Prime Minister urged Malays to make a paradigm shift to compete successfully with other races.

There is indeed no shortcut to success.

Sustainable economic success can only be achieved through backbreaking hard work.

We know this only too well.

FORWARD-LOOKING: Sustainable economic success can only be achieved through backbreaking hard work. It cannot be achieved by selling one's hard-earned projects to others. -- Reuterspic
Sustainable economic success cannot be achieved, as commonly seen now, by selling one’s hard-earned projects to others.

This approach of doing business has defeated the purpose and all the efforts taken by the Government to close the inter-racial economic gap.

The gap is still glaring.

Why is this so?

Let us say that I won a contract worth RM100mil from the Government to construct a physical infrastructure.

Later, as I had already planned, I sell this project to one Ah Chong for 10% of the contract value.

With such little effort, I manage to secure RM10mil for myself.

One may argue that this is a smart way of making profits – piling up profits without having to sweat it out.

I cannot agree to that.

To me, this is a waste of public money and an act of betrayal to my own people – the Malays.

If Ah Chong can complete the project with just RM90mil, wouldn’t it be cheaper for the Government to offer the contract directly to Ah Chong for that price?

The unnecessary RM10mil profit could be better spent on something else – such as improving social and welfare services.

Though this Ali Baba approach of doing business has resulted in a number of Malay millionaires, it does not really contribute towards increasing the active participation of Malays in the economic sector.

You may accuse me of being a sour grape to the so-called “struggle” of the Malays to accumulate as much wealth as possible.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love my country, my religion and my people just like any other person does.

Just like you, I hope to contribute positively to the society – in my own way.

It would be great to have each of us do whatever we are best at doing.

I am not an entrepreneur myself.

But I am very proud of any success achieved by my fellow Malays.

I am in awe of successful Malays every time I hear of their successes.

With regard to economic development, what we would like to see are more Malay entrepreneurs with real, solid businesses that can be passed on to the next generation.

This is a noble thing to do.

In a tradition narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim, Prophet Muhammad said to the effect: “You do better to leave your heirs rich than to leave them poor and dependent on the help of others.”

But how on earth is the next generation to inherit your business when there is none?

The Malays have to review their philosophy of economic advancement.

This advancement has to be hard earned.

One may argue that the Malays are still new to the economic world.

The Chinese are more established in all areas of business, complete with their networking.

It is very difficult to compete with them since we are not in a level playing field.

We must bear in mind the Chinese also compete fiercely among themselves.

Business to them is just like a “war” that they fight hard to win.

But of course, they have a preference for people of their own skin.

One cannot deny the fact that, as a race, they too have their own struggles.

If the Malays cannot compete with the Chinese, how are they going to compete with the foreigners in the global village?

Economic independence for the Malays, or any other race for that matter, is very important for their survival.

The word “independence” also means the freedom or ability to do what we need to do, but of course, within the limitation of laws and regulations.

The economic independence of all races is crucial in building this country.

No race should be left behind in this economic pursuit.

Not the Malays, not the Indians, not the orang asli.

Some people may say the Chinese work hard and will migrate once they are rich.

I don’t believe this statement is true of all the Chinese.

It is a rather unfair statement about their loyalty towards this country.

How many wealthy Chinese do we have in this country?

How many of them have really surrendered their Malaysian citizenship and migrated to, for example, Australia and Canada?

Not many.

Based on what I have gathered from my Chinese friends, the tendency to migrate is high among the budding and aspiring professionals.

As for the rich Chinese, the pasture is already very green here in Malaysia.

Of course, they own houses and properties abroad.

So do the wealthy Malays.

They too own properties in places like London, Sidney and San Francisco.

Economic independence is a community effort.

The Malays need to support each other before relying on others' support.

With regard to this, Allah said: “?Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)?.” (Chapter 13: Verse 11).

Instead of reviewing their weaknesses, the Malays have the tendency to be easily frustrated.

Instead of supporting Malay economic activities, they start blaming others, especially the Government.

This kind of attitude does not help them at all.

Every one of us has to bear the responsibility of supporting and developing our own community.

There are genuine Malay entrepreneurs out there who want to succeed and need your support.

So, next time, before you start criticising others, ask yourself what you have done to support the Malay business community.

The Star, Tuesday 8/9/03

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