Michael Backman – most wasteful projects in Malaysia

Exclusive Interview with Michael Backman

1. What was the initial thought that prompted you to write about your “Boleh or Bodoh column”? What was and has been your intention in writing the article?

Malaysia has good people, good resources and a legal system that ought to function. It depresses me that Malaysia hasn’t been more successful than it has and that it is still fighting the old fights of the 1960s.

Malaysia ‘s Chinese have accepted the NEP and its successor policies. They define themselves as Malaysians first and foremost and are among the proudest Malaysians. They have learned Malay. Essentially, they have done everything that has been required of them and yet still there is this endless preoccupation with race in Malaysia.

Meanwhile the rest of the world is just so unbelievably dynamic now. Malaysia is looking more and more like a sleepy backwater relative to what’s going on elsewhere in the world.

Many Malaysians don’t seem to understand this. Many like to travel overseas – but when they do, too many look but they don’t see. They don’t see how things in Malaysia could be improved. They don’t want to learn from anywhere else. They think Malaysia is a special case. They should be bringing back new ideas to Malaysia. Instead they just want to bring back duty free.

2. Have you ever considered the impact the column might have upon your relationship with Malaysian government and its people? We understand Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia’s Minister for Trade and Industry, criticised your column by saying you probably know nothing about Malaysia. Has there been any (positive or negative) impact/response from publishing the column?

I write to be read and I write to have an impact, otherwise there is no point in writing. I criticised the space program for Malaysia’s first astronaut – the making of teh tarik and so on – and the Malaysian Government changed its mind on that and announced that the astronaut would be doing sensible scientific experiments after all. Perhaps I had an impact there.

In any event, more than a thousand Malaysians e-mailed me to say that they agreed with my views. If I am giving a voice to those Malaysians who share the same views but feel that they can’t express them then I’m happy to have been of some help.

But then why should I as a non-Malaysian comment about Malaysia? As far as I am concerned, strict notions of nationality are breaking down. We are all involved in each other’s countries now. Malaysians have a lot of investments in Australia. Australians invest in Asia and so on. We all have stakes in other countries and so all should be able to comment on how they are run. The free flow of ideas and openness are good things. The only people who do not like this are politicians in Malaysia and Singapore. You will never hear Australian or UK politicians complaining about those things. So you should ask yourself, why do Malaysian and Singaporean politicians dislike public debate and openness?

As for Rafidah, I know quite a lot about Malaysia. And I know quite a lot about Rafidah, which is why I wrote about the corruption allegations against her in my second column. Rafidah understands her trade brief very well, but she is dictatorial. Look at how she rules UMNO Wanita.

Sadly, I suspect I know more about Malaysia than many Malaysians. One reason for this is because Malaysia’s media is so poor and many things cannot be discussed openly. Ministers like Rafidah would prefer that Malaysians are not told things. Perhaps they have something to hide.

There is an idea among Malaysians that their country is particularly special and unique and that non-Malaysians simply cannot know much about Malaysia. That simply isn’t true. All countries are complex and have their nuances. You can be expert in a country without being from that country. Indeed, sometimes it helps not to be from that country. If more Malaysians sent more time away from Malaysia, they would gain a far clearer picture of what Malaysia is and what it is not.

I have met many Malaysian politicians and business people, spent time in almost every Malaysian state, sat through sessions of the Malaysian parliament and even attended an UMNO general assembly, stayed in kampongs, visited rubber plantations, and so on – that’s more than most Malaysians. I have stayed with Malaysian friends in Damansara, in Ampang and in Pandan Jaya. But Rafidah only stays in Damansara.

3. We understand you’re an expert on Asia’s political and economical affairs. But you seem to have taken an extra interest in Malaysia (like having a special column for Malaysia’s articles on your webpage
(http://www.michaelbackman.com). Why Malaysia?

I studied at an Australian university. Many of my classmates were Malaysian students – Chinese, Malay and Indians. I became very interested in Malaysia from that time on.

4. After reading the column, one can hardly not to think that Malaysia is a somewhat badly “managed” country. We know it might be a big question, but what do you think has contributed to the “mismanagement”of the country?

It is not all bad news. Malaysia has handled race relations well. The NEP with all its imperfections was good for Malaysia. But Malaysia is rich in resources and there is a lot of squandering of those resources.

Education is big part of the problem. Malaysian schools are not nearly good enough. There are Malaysians who are now very regretful and resentful that they attended school in Malaysia. Some have told me that they have spent a lot of their adult lives trying to undo the damage of rote learning and ‘follow the leader’-type training that they were given in Malaysia.

Malaysian schools are a long, long way behind schooling in the West in which emphasis is very much on learning how to question, be creative and not being afraid to publicly voice your opinions. When I was at school in Australia I was encouraged to write essays in which I took the opposite view to my teachers. And the more I argued against my teachers’ positions on things such as social and political issues, the higher the grades that I received. Malaysian schools need to become like this.

5. From the top of your head, what would you rank as the most wasteful projects/policies ever implemented by Malaysia Government in the past 10 years, and why?

Proton – Malaysia should NOT have a national car. You cannot get sufficient economies of scale with a population as small as Malaysia’s when it comes to car manufacturing
Putrajaya – removing civil servants from ordinary society does not make for good government
KLIA – all that infrastructure, very little air traffic and it still takes forever for your luggage to come though – it is ridiculous
Petronas Towers – the lower floors are mostly full of lift shafts – you can’t rent out a lift shaft

  1. #1 by DarkHorse on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 8:47 am

    We do not need the likes of Michael Backman or Friedman of Golden Sachs who was President Bush’s economic adviser or Paul Krugman of Princeton and Yale fame with a PhD from MIT to tell us that we should never have ventured into car manufacturing.

    Mahathir, whose training was in medicine, only needed to listen to an A-level economics student to be convinced that a company like Proton needed the advantage of economies of scale to be viable. Proton did not have those.

    All he needed to do is listen to know that putting a history major like Tengku Mahaleel was the wrong choice as CEO of any company.

    Instead he listened to the echoes of his own voice. The country has had to suffer and lost hundreds of millions, and he is still not convinced. His economic adviser Daim, a lawyer by training, has long since disappeared from the local scene with his millions.

    Listening clearly is not one of Mahathir’s virtues. His successor is more of a listener and when informed makes his signature reply which is “I didn’t know that. I will find out” and waits for inspiration from above which never came and if it comes at all it comes in fits and starts more confused than clear.

    When interviewed by a foreign journalist recently, he asked “What is this economies of scale? Is it something I could sit on?”

  2. #2 by HJ Angus on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 8:48 am

    The authorities have not lost the appetite for doubtful projects – this one will also be vulnerable:


    But no complaints if all private investment and no public funds involved.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:05 am

    He asked “What is this economies of scale? Is it something I could sit on?” He failed stats and thus was unable to enter the econs stream in UM

  4. #4 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:11 am

    Generally fair comment.

    Michael Backman by whose writings the coinage of “Bodohland” crept into popular lexicon, observes and comments on Asian political and business affairs through strictly the prism of western cultural values. Hence, he tends to criticize more than say good, and on the few occasions he does the latter – as for example, “it is not all bad news. Malaysia has handled race relations well. The NEP with all its imperfections was good for Malaysia. But Malaysia is rich in resources and there is a lot of squandering of those resources – it is altogether that accurate!

    Take the case of Singapore, one of the best micro-managed and corruption free countries in the world, Michael wrote on May 17, 2006 of the Age, “Certainly, it’s true that integrity is important in politics. That’s why so many people were surprised back in 1996 when it was revealed that Lee Kuan Yew and many family members had accepted large discounts on a series of expensive apartments in Singapore from a local property developer, on whose board sat one of Lee’s brothers. Lee and Lee Hsien Loong received more than $S1 million ($A829,000) in discounts, discounts that were in excess of the usual discounts offered in the market.The company was later censured by the local stock exchange for not seeking shareholder approval for favourable transactions with related parties”. He added, “but how good is Singapore, really? As every expatriate in Singapore knows, Singapore’s media is appalling. Sex is covered endlessly. Rape and incest cases are described in unnecessary minutiae, as are instances of alleged sexual deviance (“Oh, isn’t it dreadful?” is the line usually taken before the incident is recounted in slavish detail.) In essence, Singaporeans are fed a regular diet of soft porn, perhaps as compensation for precious little political debate. That’s not democracy. It’s smutocracy”.

    He has a penchant for critical catchy taglines – “smutocracy” for Singapore, “Malaysia Bodoh” for us.

    Michael Backman has achieved prominence and done well on the back of evaluating and criticizing Asia and all matters Asian from the partial perspective of Western norms and standards – that’s for sure. He criticized Asian economic practices lacking western standards of corporate governance and accountability. Like American economist Paul Krugman of “The Myth of Asia’s Miracle” fame, Michael’s fame shot up when the Rupiah, the Baht and Ringgit currencies got shot down during the Asian Economic Crisis which appeared to vindicate his earlier criticisms – though interestingly China, with all her lack of corporate governance and accountability, and bad business practices but huge foreign reserves (and a not open economy and the Yuan/RMB not internationalized) was unscathed and not taken on by hedge fund currency traders.

    One however should not only look at the negative side and criticize but the positive aspects and trends for balance so that both truth and opportunities are not lost.

    Maybe I am not in touch, but I don’t hear Michael writing optimistically and extensively about the great economic prospects from China’s phenomenal economic growth intersecting, interacting in synergy with Japan’s getting out of the woods with an end of her banking crisis, deflationary pressures, rise of demand/consumption and property prices and expected rise of the Yen and how it will impact most positively on the economics of South East Asia region!

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:13 am

    Tyupo omission in 2nd para – should be “it is altogether NOT that accurate!”

  6. #6 by OnTheFence on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:26 am

    I agree that it is a fair comment and views and opinions are alway appreciated and welcomed.

    But i do feel that Micheal Backman has no full right to critise the Malaysia in general. For example proton….it is not a wasteful investment or “mega project” but the direction taken is not correct…I am no businessman but we should have expanded the distribution of proton throughout SEA when it was 1st launch rather than wait when the company is at a stranglehold and implement those things……

    I agree that some of his views and arguements are valid but I think the fight here belong to us Malaysian to make the change and not follow some “Asian Westerner” direction on how to do thing….

    Maybe Micheal Backman should write about his own country instead …I do think that his country is not yet 100% perfect..

    WAKE-UP MALAYSIANS & SHOW THAT WE ARE IN CHARGE AND THAT WE CAN MADE A DIFFERENT…..its time to change shake..rattlee & roll the current goverment & show that we people are in charge…

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:27 am

    The reference to China (whose currency was/is not inernationalised) not being affected by Asian Currency Crisis is intended to be a coextensive reference to HK (whose currency was internationalised), backed by China.

  8. #8 by Jeffrey on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:33 am

    “Maybe Micheal Backman should write about his own country” – OnTheFence. Yes but maybe not. Maybe he thinks Australia is a Paragon of Asian economic success and a Beacon of Corporate Governance and Accountability for the rest of us to take direction and avert economic shipwreck!

  9. #9 by FuturePolitician on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:50 am

    Micheal has some good and bad points, that is his call. PROTON wasnt a mistake, Tun Dr.Mahathir took the 1st step, which many would not have done so, BY setting up a National Car Production facility in Malaysia with the collaboration of Mitshubishi. The agreement was technological transfer, the japanese know-how to Malaysian on carburettor engines. This is a great start. Sadly, TRULY INTELLIGENT MALAYSIANS wasnt part of the component but due to the bumiputera malay mind-set, many talents has been rejected. My friend(indian) trained in Ford USA on bumber design was rejected (FORD USA!!) , this isnt a new story. ECONOMIC of SCALE has no boundries, we can export to neighbouring countries if not GLOBAL sales..again the mentality of bumiputera malays doesnt have the vision. Tun Dr.Mahathir has initiate something for the MALAYSIAN to build on, but the bumiputera malay mindset is destroying what he is trying to build.

    It is because the fear of competition drive them to reap the wealth of the country internally and not sharing them, causing the quality of life for ordinary citizen to compoundingly degrades. The gap of the rich and the poor is broadening..and the middle-class only able to meet-ends with little savings for the future.

    Our country is rich with resources but it isnt for the people of Malaysia. It is the current government which lacks of vision..

    I believe Micheal’s attack is on all the project Tun Dr.Mahathir has started, He tries to please his people and at the same time protect the interest of non-malays..but now he is no longer in power..the non-malays has no more protection..and with the current MCA,MIC,GERAKAN and ALL the OPPOSITION PARTIES like DAP, they arent doing enough to protect the non-malays.

    I truly believe in ONE NATION MALAYSIAN, I dont care the color of the skin, the religious background…or the status in the society, I want to be a MALAYSIAN.. my children needs to feel they belong to the country and the ruling government are there to protect their future.

    We are a rich country and have many talented people of all races.. dont segregate them, at the end we arent concentration on economic building for the nation BUT petty fights for a small fortune just to meet ends.

    Good luck to us all.

  10. #10 by W.O or Wilson on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 9:58 am

    When I first came across the article by Michael Blackman in an Australian paper, I was righteously indignant as a proud Malaysian.
    “How dare this white man tell criticise us – what right does he have???”

    5 minutes later, I calmed down and re-read his article. Examining the facts he presented etc, I could really find no wrong with his examination of facts and his arguments – I was indignant because an “outsider” had the audacity to criticize my beloved country – an unfortunate throwback to my years of being raised in Malaysia with Dr.M’s anti-whiteman/colonial mentaility.

    Mr Blackman may not have every RIGHT to criticize Malaysia, but that’s hardly the point. He certainly has every oppotunity and every chance to – and the fact that he does, merits serious attention. That an “outsider” like him can see the many flaws in our country while Malaysians remain blind and apathetic to them is the real fact that is truly lamentable.

    As the world becomes increasingly integrated and fluid, cross-border examination of a country’s system of government, policies, human rights record etc is not something that should be discouraged – as long as the criticism is valid and constructive, it is useful – provided the people in power listen.

    I sincerely hope Malaysians continue to remain indignant – but at the right issues. Mr Blackman’s mostly accurate comments about our country hardly merit the sort of indignation that should be instead, directed to the powers that be.



    * I can’t help myself, but I’m sure Mr Blackman is accutely aware that Australia, with a population size smaller than that of Malaysia, and a geographically-isolated market, should never have started Holden either – even though it’s now majority owned by GM. Reply Mr Blackman? :)

  11. #11 by Jimm on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:03 am

    MB did have a few points that Malaysian should take note like our education system, our PSD , our tolerance level among ourselves and good practices by Goverment.
    Most cases , things are taken for granted or at a discount to cater for NEP.
    Well, MB may not able to see Malaysia the way we chosen to understand.
    However, we should learn to accept freedom of opinion from someone ‘not belong to home’ as this can be a good mirror to reflects ourselves.

  12. #12 by Jimm on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:08 am

    At times, just like us, it’s always easier to talk about other people than ourselves. Maybe it’s because we might have the kind of “I know better …” syndrome.
    In Malaysia, it also quite difficult to ‘express’ freely due to political practices here. So, should there be some ‘outsider’ pointing out to us , what he thought is not right about ourselves …
    We should ponder and ask ourselves …. Why is this guy saying things like that ?

  13. #13 by Jimm on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:11 am

    It’s like our own family inner circles with each one of us having differences in our own life style, then we have our outside circle of uncles and aunties. They, sometimes highlighted our shortcomings and wishes us to change or improve … Think along that way … remember that sometimes, we couldn’t bother about what their advises meant or goes …. ha .. ha …

  14. #14 by W.O or Wilson on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:16 am

    For the interested parties,

    Michael Blackman’s original articles can be found at:


    See my comments above about what I think – I’m not speaking up for the whiteman – I wish Malaysians would stop using language like that…but I do believe in critically examining our own flaws and rectifying them instead of being defensive about them. Gets us nowhere. Has gotten us nowhere. Been 50 years…

  15. #15 by megaman on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:17 am

    Can’t we Malaysians take in criticisms with grace and intelligence ?

    Rather than commenting on whether Michael Backman has the right to comment on our politics and economics and whether Australia is better or worse than us.

    Can’t we just receive his criticisms with and reflect on it ?
    Learn from it? Come on. There’s are reasons why he perceives Malaysia in such a manner and I believe he is not the only person with such a view. If several more influential businessmen or politicians share similar perspective, what do you think this would cost us?

    This is exactly why he laments that Malaysians travel abroad, look but never see. This exactly why he says Malaysians thinks that Malaysia is special and refuses to listen to outsiders thinking outsiders have no ideas what they are talking about.

    Come on. How long have we been an independent country ? 60 years only whereas other more mature countries have been around for hundred of years. Are we so arrogant to think that our problems are so unique that other countries have never encountered it before.

    Why are we so arrogant, ignorant and self-centred ? The world doesn’t revolve around Malaysia, it never has and never will.

    I am a Malaysian myself, but I have lived and worked overseas for years. I don’t claim to know a lot, but I am very sure that nobody at home listens. I tried talking some sense but it seems every Malaysians I met prefers to bury their heads in the sand like ostriches.

    The first steps to change like any recovery program, is to admit the problem and to be able to take in criticisms. Without this first step, anything else is a farce.

  16. #16 by rayden on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:43 am

    One bad thing about Malay is that, they wont accept criticisms easily. But one good thing i like about Badawi is that he’s will to accept any criticisms as long as it helps.

    And i agree with Michael Backman, how many Malaysian really know Malaysia?
    He have a good intention in fact, he make most of us think.
    And before you get offended, please think twice of the truth behind other’s criticisms. It might help your brain to spin faster.

  17. #17 by bbtan on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:54 am

    “Malaysia has handled race relations well. The NEP with all its imperfections was good for Malaysia.”
    No, Mr Backman, the NEP was and still is, not good for Malaysia. How can it be good when almost half (when NEP started) of Malaysians were marginalized? Malaysia is peaceful when compared to Thailand or the Philippines because the minorities here are compliant(courtesy LKY).

  18. #18 by dawsheng on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:10 am

    There’s a saying “everyone knows something but no one knows everything” is a fact applies to every human beings but not for BN, the govt of Malaysia. One of the reason is because the rakyat have given them fifty years to be right about everything in this country even though it was very wrong. Majority of the rakyat still in a very confuse state of mind to accept the fact that Malaysia is in danger of collapsing because to them the govt knows everything and will protect them from hunger, you wish. To all malay, if UMNO really protecting you and they are right about everything in this country, how come there is no mercedes in each of everyone of your garage? But so many of you still lives in illegal house made of cardboards and waste material? Wake up my friend.

  19. #19 by Jong on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:32 am

    “Many like to travel overseas – but when they do, too many look but they don’t see. They don’t see how things in Malaysia could be improved. They don’t want to learn from anywhere else. They think Malaysia is a special case. They should be bringing back new ideas to Malaysia. Instead they just want to bring back duty free.” – Michael Backman

    How true, not forgetting the uncontrolled large entourage of ministers, public servants, bizmen and bodeks mercilessly robbing nation’s coffer(tax-payers’ money) year in year out.

  20. #20 by i_love_malaysia on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:32 am

    It is not just Michael Backman knows all these wasteful projects etc. , many Malaysian know about these but not much that they can do, going by the democratic system, the majority will rule the country. If the majority of the people in Malaysia still dont wake up to the impending disasters ahead of them, the same political parties will continue to win the elections and form the next gov. and the same problems will continue. It is a viciuos cycle.
    I respect Mr. Lim Kit Siang for his unfailing persistent to highlight and reminding the gov on these and hopefully, some good has been done, else we might be already in bankrupt state and there’s no time for us to write in the blog but working extra time to look for food.
    It is very easy to criticise and tear down, but it is very difficult to build up, we need to give alternative solutions, just like working as a Consultant, Consultant needs to give the solution and not just pointing out the problems.
    We need to understand the mentality of the majority, they are people with great pride, the value of the “muka”, that is why they wont mind spending million or billion ringgit to satisfy their ego and to make their faces “shine” in front of others, but they dont know it is a waste of resources of the country and it wont last and the resouces could be used for higher priority projects. Many malaysian have given up hope on Malaysia and they have left Malaysia for good. God bless Malaysia!!

  21. #21 by bbtan on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:35 am

    Mr Backman, if the Malaysian minorities were to trade places with the minorities in Southern Thailand, wouldn’t Thailand be a peaceful country?

  22. #22 by mendela on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:52 am

    Yes, KLIA is a big shame! KLIA traffic is probably only a tenth of what Changi or HK airport is doing now. What a waste of our tax payable money!

    Normal practice is to build in stages. Example: additional parking lots should only be build when the need arises. TDM got them build all in one go! Do you know how much money every year we have to shoulder on all the depreciation costs and maintenance costs despite most of the parking lots are not in good use at all?

    Yes, the time taken to wait for our luggage to appear probably is the longest among all major airports in the world!

  23. #23 by mendela on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:53 am

    Typo, it shou be tax “payer” money.

  24. #24 by i_love_malaysia on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 12:14 pm

    As for me, I am not given up hope on Malaysia, I believe that when the majority of the people in Malaysia, hopefully not far into the future (may be after using up all the resouces of the country and in heavy debts) would come to their senses to elect the right people to manage the country, but there’s a high risk, the elite that refuse to give up their power will use all ways to stay in power e.g. blaming the minority for the problems that they have created and continue to use the same tactic to stay in power.

  25. #25 by WFH on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 12:30 pm

    For a number of posters here who hold the view that Michael Backman should NOT comment on Malaysia because he is not a Malaysian, I just wish they will re-examine their opposition.

    If anyone insists that a non-Malaysian should keep his unflaterring remarks on Malaysia to himself, then they are completely justifying the likes of KJ and all the other senior UMNO idiots – that non-Malays should NOT raise any comment on UMNO and governance of Bumi privileges and Malay affairs – for the simple and same reason that us non-Malays are non-Bumis/Malays/Muslim.

    C’mon, live and let live. Non-Malaysians expressing their views (especially unwelcome views) will not be the cause for us to self-destruct – the BN/UMNO is doing that well enough. Instead we can absorb criticisms and hopefully become wiser for those shortcomings that we do not see, or want to see, within ourselves as a people and as a nation.

    Keep ’em coming, Michael Backman, keep ’em coming.

  26. #26 by wsblurtn on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 1:10 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly that we should welcome all views regardless of the source being malaysian or otherwise..it opens our eyes to things which we may not ” see” esp when some of our politicians are so like ” frogs under the coconut shell”. The onus is on us to digest and learn from these comments..so take heart if they make sense and ignore those unconstructive ones!!

  27. #27 by toyolbuster on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 1:41 pm

    Malaysians would be most grateful if Michael Backman could write and expose everything and anything concerning the corrupt practices of this fat lady dictator, as starter.

  28. #28 by Jimm on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 2:04 pm

    For being a Malaysian, we are truly blessed with those who concerned about us both within our own fellow Malaysian and also people around the globe.
    Most of us have a legacy of family values and country pride to journey. Despite of having to go through ‘challenges’ from BN Government and “EXECUTIVE DECISION” , most of us have learned about the truth eventually. It’s a hurting statement , however , it’s helping us to grow to be a better Malaysian.

  29. #29 by Winston on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 2:08 pm

    The core of the matter is not that it takes a foreigner to point out the faults of this country.
    The core of the matter is the stupidity and masochism of the non-Bumi electorate.
    The recent by-elections are good examples.
    They voted for the BN because they got some development projects. What they didn’t realise was that these projects should have been done for them – with or without a by-election!
    To be beholden to the ruling party because of these projects is to pawn one’s conscience and give in to the blackmail of the government.
    Can we ever have good governance if we continually vote for a government that uses these tactics to gain votes!
    The only way to throw away the yoke is to give your vote to a credible political party.

  30. #30 by i_love_malaysia on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 2:10 pm

    The wrong view that only UMNO or Malay or Muslim can comment on their own business is no longer valid as they are making lots of lousy, unfair decisions for our beloved country Malaysia, their actions are affecting every one in this nation and not just themselves e.g. the Syariah court decides on non-muslim’s affairs, the billed out of bumi companies using the tax payer money which was collected from every one regardless of race, religion, language or creed.
    When there are problems, failed projects etc around, Why not just the UMNO, Malay & Muslim to shoulder them? but want every one to suffer? Please be fair to all, if UMNO wants to separate the line, I would suggest to separate the tax payer money according to the race and let each group manages its own business, by then, no body would question how they spend their own money and may be no body would bother to look at them. But is this the way KJ and the rest wanted to see, of course not, that’s why never say that only they can comment on their own affairs which affect all. We are brothers and sisters in God’s eye, so no more excuses to have this wrong view when all these resouces of the nation are given by God to all the people in Malaysia and not just UMNO, Malay or Muslim!!!

  31. #31 by mendela on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 2:13 pm

    With all the so-called “main stream” newspapers and other media acting as mouth-piece for UMO-led Government, Malaysia needs many hundreds of Michael Backman to tell Malaysians and the whole world the truths.

    There are just too many lies that need to be exposed immediately.

    Malaysia is rotten away too fast now.

  32. #32 by Counterpoint on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 2:56 pm

    With an out of control gomen steamrolling their squandering machine without a giving a damn to whatever its people say, we need all the help we can get to curb them. All outsiders are most welcomed to shoot them down.

  33. #33 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 3:01 pm

    // He asked “What is this economies of scale? Is it something I could sit on?” He failed stats and thus was unable to enter the econs stream in UM. //

    k1980 – He asked “What is the econs stream? Is it something I could swim in?

  34. #34 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 3:05 pm

    Notice that 3 out of the 4 wasteful projects identified by Backman starts with a “P” – Proton, Putrajaya and Petronas Tower. He left out Perwaja Steel.

    Maybe we should rename KLIA as Perwaja Airport.

  35. #35 by pongsakling on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 6:53 pm

    Micheal Backman know so much yet so little about Malaysian culture. Malaysian are not bodoh, but lazy, especially the Malay.
    The culture tell us that the Malay live in a kampung, they don’t have to think or plan for their future or plan for the four season.
    They don’t have to wear shirt and only sarong will do for the whole 365 days and if they are hungry they can just go to the farm to plug fruits to eat or to the river to catch fish for lunch or dinner.
    For Chinese culture we are different, our great grandparents came from China, and most part of China have four season, so they have to plan on what to wear, what to eat and what to do for each season. So planning is very important for chinese.When they came to Malaya, they know they have to work hard in order to earn a leaving, so they have to start thinking and work hard to survive.
    So all this become a culture until this generation.
    As you can see, most Malay are lazy to think and and have a poor planning, so just look at our Goverment, control by the Malay, and compare with Singapore control by Chinese, why so much different.
    The Culture tell us that proper planning plus hard working only can make a good effective and effecient country. Even if you are from Oxford or Cambridge, if you are lazy and have poor planning, what is the use of it? If today, Malaysia is run by chinese, I believe we are now better or equal to Singapore. If Proton have a Chinese CEO, maybe Proton are better or equal to Hyundai or Kia. To be fair, the Malay are improving them self, but they are still very far away from Chinese in terms or good planning and hard working.
    NEP and and their slogan “ketuanan melayu” slow them down a lot.

  36. #36 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 7:05 pm

    Who the heck is this Backman guy? Just someone from Down Under whose opinion about leaders and leadership of a country in his neighborhood, which happens to be not a country he chooses to make a living in, found their way to the local media – and to the attention of Malaysian readers.

    His comments are valid and not even radical but moderate and are mere reflections of the thoughts of the average Malaysian who only wants his or her country to progress. There is nothing wrong with that. So why focus on his nationality and his domicile? We know it is not the singer but the song that matters.

    Why should Malaysians react so defensively when reading comments from foreigners which are less than flattering about their country when the same comments by their own receive not a flicker of emotion? This is all about misplaced patriotism.

    Backman makes very moderate comments about the failure of leadership in a country which has been under an oppressive regime for the last 20 odd years.

    The xenophobic response from Rafidah Aziz who has long outlived her ‘shelf life’ and should have been discarded because to consume it would be detrimental to one’s health, is to be expected of a leader like her – corrupt, who as Malaysia’s own Fat Lady (a title she has ‘earned’ for herself) has had to beg her boss not to spank her in public. She did get the spanking though but in private – the length people like her would go just to keep her job and not her principles!

    It is true that Mahathir did not need the likes of Greenspan or Friedman to tell him that his country could ill-afford to experiment with industries like sponge iron and automobile manufacturing. Economics has nothing to do with the old man’s vision of political Malaysia. Economic concepts like “Economies of scale” are alien to him just like the “English common law” he maintains is alien to Malaysia. It has little to do with his fixation at trying to win the world’s attention to his maverick ways either. The fact that Malayawata would have collapsed in the 60s if not for the heavy tariffs and import duties imposed on imported steel bars flooding the market from countries like Taiwan, has nothing to do with his decision to move into projects like Perwaja and Proton. It has everything to do however, with the Malay saying “Sambil menyelam minum air” and why not?

    These two projects have served him well personally. They were cash cows for UMNO, himself and his cronies. Should they collapse and they did, it is because feasibility studies have been wrong. But weren’t foreign consultants ‘consulted’ for their ‘views’ so that policy makers could get to see and read what they want to see and read?

    Even the likes of Alan Greenspan and Friedman could not save a country like Malaysia.

  37. #37 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 7:28 pm

    ‘Why are we so arrogant, ignorant and self-centred ? The world doesn’t revolve around Malaysia, it never has and never will.” Megaman

    It is akin to culture developed over the years – call it Mahathirism if you want.

  38. #38 by ihavesomethingtosay on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 8:21 pm

    “Mahathirism” – undergrad2

    one question, how does a MAMAK becomes a bumi only after 2 generation?

  39. #39 by undergrad2 on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 10:06 pm


    He becomes a Malay (the term ‘bumiputera’ is what leaders in UMNO concocted to justify some becoming Malays though born of another ethnicity) when he is a Muslin, speaks the Malay language and follows Malay customs. That’s how. He does not need to be a practicing Muslim merely professing to be one is good enough: Article 160(2) Federal Malaysian Constitution 1957.

  40. #40 by Alvin on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:10 pm

    we dont have to be xenophobic on what others write about us;
    we have brains and we can decipher whats right or wrong
    if what MB says carries weight, we only need to reflect and try to understand, adapt and change where necessary
    and if he is talking rubbish, why bother
    time will silence him
    As Malaysians we have to accept views and criticisms in this borderless world unlike Bumis in this country which prefers to resolve things behind close doors at best; otherwise just sweep them under the carpet and vehemently defend their position with the notion of non interference by others when challenged.
    HOw do you think they (the bumis) can accept criticism, globalisation when they still prefer crutches, seeking obvious solace like an ostrich.

  41. #41 by hermes on Tuesday, 29 May 2007 - 11:25 pm

    Why do the non malays still insist that malaysia is still their country? The malays say it is not. The non malays are often told to get out of malaysia. The non malays are systematically threatened, marginalise and discrminated. The non malays are presurrised to convert to islam. They are told that they are not wanted in malaysia. They are told that malaysia is not their country. Why do the non malays still delude themselves that malaysia is still their country? I have given up that idea some time ago. I face fact and the realities of life in malaysia. I have arranged mu life so that i do not depend on malaysia and malaysia is not part of my life. malaysia can go to hell.

  42. #42 by DiaperHead on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 12:49 am

    “Why do the non malays still insist that malaysia is still their country?”Herpes

    Because Mandarin is not the country’s national language?

  43. #43 by dawsheng on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 1:28 am

    5. From the top of your head, what would you rank as the most wasteful projects/policies ever implemented by Malaysia Government in the past 10 years, and why?

    “Proton – Malaysia should NOT have a national car. You cannot get sufficient economies of scale with a population as small as Malaysia’s when it comes to car manufacturing” Backman

    What about toyota, nissan and honda? Proton is a waste because idiot runs it.

    “Putrajaya – removing civil servants from ordinary society does not make for good government” Backman

    Putrajaya is not meant for civil servants, Putrajaya is for those who serves the govt and they are indeed not from ordinary society.

    “KLIA – all that infrastructure, very little air traffic and it still takes forever for your luggage to come though – it is ridiculous” Backman

    KLIA was built for the future in Malaysia. The only thing different about Malaysia’s future is that we count as the year passses by. We have vision 2057 to make KLIA pack like tin can sardines.

    “Petronas Towers – the lower floors are mostly full of lift shafts – you can’t rent out a lift shaft” Backman

    It is not about the shafts Backman, it is the people, ketuanan melayu, bumiputras and their NEP. We know much better than you do, but thanks anyway.

  44. #44 by burn on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 3:39 am

    hermes… I have arranged mu life so that i do not depend on malaysia and malaysia is not part of my life. malaysia can go to hell.”

    good for you!
    no need to comeback since malaysia is hell to you.
    but malaysia to me, is heaven, and will fight for my rights till the day i tapau! just like LKS!

    aku punya falsampah!

  45. #45 by paddysia on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 7:37 am

    touhg he maybe overzealous in his ideas, but if you spent time in another, more developed country, malaysia would look like a backwater country, seriously

    i don;t have a big problem when it come to “MEGA PROJECTS”, it when people with friends in high places get certain “privileges” in getting these projects or running a goverenment linked company

  46. #46 by sotong on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 8:34 am

    Malays/bumi are older Malaysians. They have a right to their way of life and it is in the best interest of the country their unique culture and traditions are fully protected for the benefit of generations to come.

    Human being contribute nothing to Mother Earth except pollution and destruction. She doesn’t need us….we need her.

  47. #47 by bbtan on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 11:46 am

    I’m not surprised that Backman knows more about Malaysia than the fat lady.
    “Seek and you will find. Read and you will be knowledgeable. Read, oh you in the blanket.”
    In spite of the above exhortations, Malaysians, in general prefer to be katak under the coconut shell.

  48. #48 by BoDo Singh on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 5:35 pm

    Now what? Blame the ostrich. Blame the tortoise. Blame the three monkeys. Blame the fat lady. And now the frog!

  49. #49 by maya on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 7:09 pm

    Dear Uncle Lim,
    It saddens me that in every discussion, there is someone who brings up the issue of race, always putting down someone of the other race. For eg, this person who compared the Malay culture( citing people living in kampung), and chinese culture as being very organised etc. Come on people, cant we have one decent discussion without demeaning or humiliating someone else? I find the Malays in the kampung as some of the nicest people i have met. Just because they seem to have no economic ambitions, that is no reason to run them down. We get upset and all riled up when we are racially discriminated, so why cant we stop to think about how we are hurting the others with our remarks as well?? My take on the matter is that we have a choice, we do. We either put up with the unfairness, we fight for our rights, and if we think that it is a losing battle, we get out to a ‘war free zone’. I love Malaysia, every time i hear the Negaraku, my eyes start tearing…but i felt i did not want to continue feeling miserable so i have left. End of the day, we do have a choice. God bless all of us.

  50. #50 by bbtan on Wednesday, 30 May 2007 - 9:24 pm

    BoDo whoever, I’m sorry I’ve not alternative but to blame the fat lady and the katak.
    By the way, Mr Backman, please give us katak some more interesting information of whatever is going on around us.

  51. #51 by i_love_malaysia on Thursday, 31 May 2007 - 2:42 pm

    It is no longer so easy for the mamak to become a Malay now a day as the real Malay dont really like them as they are smarter in many ways, though they are abang adik as muslim but when come to power and business, money talk louder than any other thing. Now a day, even children born by malay lady who married mamak could no longer become malay, their “keturunan” will be India. Just check with any mamak who married malay lady and have children and you will get this answer. One of these mamaks that I know told me that the NRD officer told him that his son could not be a Malay as they will misuse the malay status to go into business and they are smarter than the real malay!!! This is the side effect after TDM stepped down as PM!!

  52. #52 by accountability on Sunday, 3 June 2007 - 4:51 pm

    Michael Bachman, civilized malaysians for a fair country hear you!

    thanks uncle kit for this interview!

  53. #53 by darnielng on Wednesday, 27 February 2008 - 7:42 pm

    It’s not surprising the approach and strong words used by Michael Backman to share his personal views from a 3rd party and criticize about Malaysia. I can see why some of the comments here may say that Michael Backman’s articles on Malaysia may be too harsh. In my personal opinion, there is no harm to accept professional criticism.

    To improve ourselves, we all should accept criticism and use your own judgment, acknowledge our mistakes and analyze the views from a different perspective.

    Maybe Malaysia will be like Hong Kong if we are still ruled by the British. Why not, it’s better than the way it is now.

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