by Joseph Sipalan
The Malay Mail Online
May 2, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR, May 2 ― The economic dominance of government-linked corporations (GLCs) negates Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s assertion of a non-Malay monopoly over the country’s wealth, a DAP MP said yesterday.
Swatting aside Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s claims of Chinese dominion over the country’s wealth and Indian command of its professions to justify pro-Bumiputera affirmative action, Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong argued that GLCs masked the community’s true control on the economy.
“Look at most of the private hospitals, any of the big ones you can name. Take Subang Jaya Medical Centre, that is owned by Sime Darby,” he said, referring to the now renamed Sime Darby Medical Centre.
“Prince Court, which is the country’s most expensive hospital, is owned by Petronas. Pantai hospital and Gleneagles are owned by Kazanah through its subsidiaries.
Sime Darby and Petronas are both state-owned corporations while Khazanah Nasional is state asset manager; these and other GLC’s come under the control of the government headed by Malay nationalist party Umno.
A steadily growing force since the Mahathir administration, GLCs such as Khazanah Nasional, Sime Darby and DRB-Hicom have amassed overflowing war chests and built networks that far surpass that which smaller firms and start-ups can muster.
Putrajaya estimates that firms linked to it employ around 5 per cent of the national workforce, and hold 36 per cent market capitalisation of Bursa Malaysia and 54 per cent of the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) respectively.
On Wednesday, Dr Mahathir defended pro-Bumiputera policies championed by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, after US President Barack Obama said Malaysia will not prosper if minority groups continue to be marginalised, during his first visit to the Southeast Asian country over the weekend.
The country’s longest-serving prime minister said at a press conference that despite preferential treatment for the Bumiputera, the Chinese and Indian communities have had more than enough space to build their wealth and establish themselves in professional lines such as doctors and lawyers.
Liew said it was misleading for Dr Mahathir to claim that the non-Malays flourished under the BN’s affirmative action policy, arguing that even the majority of the Bumiputera themselves did not benefit.
GLCs were established as part of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government’s affirmative action policies for Bumiputera citizens under the New Economic Policy (NEP), but its effectiveness has been questioned even by those it is meant to help ― Bumiputera entrepreneurs.
The DAP lawmaker also stressed that the racial breakdown of the country’s wealthiest citizens is in no way a reflection of the living standards of ordinary Malaysians.
“I think the whole problem with Mahathir is he is reading it from a race and elite perspective. He looks at the top and think every group has a fair share, forgetting the people who are suffering at the bottom.
“Let’s admit it. Most Malays are poor, most Indians are poor, many Chinese are also poor. The people in Sabah and Sarawak could live a much better life if the system is not against them… the gap between the rich and poor is huge in Malaysia,” he said.
Liew said Dr Mahathir’s argument for race-based economic policies should be relegated to the past if Malaysians want to put an end to crony capitalism.
“The problem is that in the name of the Bumiputera, everyone else suffered. The majority of Bumiputera are not helped by the system, nor are they given a chance to succeed.
“Today we are in a situation where we should put forward a new argument, not a 1920s argument. Mahathir has been saying the same thing since 1947 when he started his column in the Straits Times in Singapore, but he has never helped the poor Malays.
“Whatever he says needs serious scrutiny,” Liew said, while calling for a non-racial discussion of economic inequality.
Malaysia’s Bumiputera majority enjoys privileges under a system of preferential treatment in jobs, housing and access to government funding.
Among others, these have been blamed for Malaysia’s chronic brain drain that has seen its non-Malay communities leaving the country, with southern neighbour Singapore the main beneficiary.