Greed: The Cause of Wealth Disparity Among Races

by Syed Zahar, The Malaysian Digest

Every morning as I walk down my street I see the same homeless Chinese man sleeping on asphalt. Just around the corner there’s a Malay guy lying on his back, oblivious to the office workers walking by the sidewalk that has become his makeshift bedroom since even before I moved downtown five years ago. I walk a little further and I see a dreadlocked Indian lady getting up at a bus stop to make her way elsewhere.

…Come evening time, as I am strolling back home through the neighboring vicinity, I see an Indian man driving a 2010 Jaguar XJ. A minute goes by and my neighbor, Mr Lee passes by me in his classic red Ferrari but only to pull up behind a Brabus that’s parked in front of a swanky Italian restaurant. Mr Lee had to wait for a big shot Malay broad to board the chauffeur-driven car before he could proceed to wherever the party is at.
These are the sort of things I see in the city on a daily basis. As there are poor people of different ethnic backgrounds so are there affluent folks of diverse races. The rich are having their RM400 wine and dine while the hardcore poor and homeless are going through trash to look for empty bottles and cans to trade for money to buy food. A pretty balanced 1Malaysia, I would say.

But then again, when I visit any fancy condos (priced at RM800,000 and above), say in Mont Kiara, I clearly see that most of the owners of the units are non-Malays, predominantly Chinese, Indians and expats. Why are most of these units owned and occupied by non-Malays when the Bumiputras make the majority of the population (67 percent) and have even been given 10 to 15 percent discount on property purchase? Why are the Malays able to buy luxury vehicles yet we hardly see any Malay owners of these luxury condo units?
What Happened to the Malay Multimillionaires?

..In economics point of view, in any country (except for maybe Brunei), there will always be poor people and rich people. The aim of any nation is to narrow the gap between the two. But why are the Malays don’t seem to be as rich as the Chinese? Or are they?

Even when you look at Forbes top ten richest Malaysian list you’ll see there’s only one Malay (Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary at number 7) while the rest are Chinese and there’s one Indian (Ananda Krishnan at number 2). Surely there must be more than a few more affluent Malays missing from the the Top 40 list. What happened to the Malay multimillionaires like Tajuddin Ramli, Daim Zainuddin (photo), Shamsuddin Abu Hassan, Wan Azmi, Halim Saad, Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar, Taib Mahmud, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the other Umno cronies? These people are known to own more than a few properties and businesses (even banks) around the world so the reason can only be either these people don’t declare their assets or their assets are under someone else’s name.

The NEP and Umnoputras

I had some conversations on this riddling occurrence with some Malay and Chinese old-timers (age 50 and over). As it turns out, the answers to the baffling questions above has to do with the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and how Malaysians of all races exploit this policy which had been carved onto our Constitution since 1970.

When the NEP was introduced back then, it was conjured in haste and out of desperation to appease the perturbed Malays in the aftermath of the May 13 race riots in 1969. It was an idea agreed among all the components of the Alliance Party (Umno, MCA and MIC). So the NEP got the nod from both the Chinese and Indians who agreed to it for the sake of racial stability in a country in crisis.

..But the NEP was not an open-ended policy as it was intended to be enforced for just 20 years so it is suppose to end by 1990. The then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (photo) agreed with this and he even reminded the Malays about it again and again so that they would buck up and get their acts together in preparation. At the same time, he advised the Chinese businessmen to work with the Malays to help them prosper together. This was so that the government can repeal the NEP which is clearly making the Malays appear weak.

The thing about the NEP is, contrary to popular belief, the policy is actually not just about the Malays. According to a former central committee member of the Malay Chamber of Commerce (who is currently a fugitive), “the NEP is a multi-prong attack (senapang dua mata) to reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots (regardless of race), to make the distribution of wealth more equitable, and to reduce the disparity between the different races. This was what the NEP was all about.” However, somewhere along the way, the Malays either forgot about this multi-prong attack or became confused and began to think that the NEP was just about them.