Votes for aid: What about non-Malay businesses?

Chinese and Indian business associations comment on the Bumiputera Manufacturers and Service Industry Association’s request for RM25 million.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Chinese and Indian businessmen are wagging their tongues over a Malay business organisation’s offer of votes to Barisan Nasional in return for capital grants.

They wonder how the government would react if a non-bumiputera organisation were audacious enough to offer a similar deal. They note that there has been no report of the government accepting or rejecting the offer from the Bumiputera Manufacturers and Service Industry Association, made in a speech last Thursday by its president, Abdul Rahim Abu Bakar.

“Of course we wish that the government would provide support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Small and Medium Industries (SMIs) without regarding issues like race,” said Leong Kai Hin, who sits in the national council of the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM), which represents close to 30,000 businessmen.

He told FMT that ACCCIM was not objecting to the Bumiputera association’s offer and refused to pass judgment on whether it was appropriate.

“As businessmen, we try not to get into all these debates,” he said. “We can’t make things turn racial, but we (Chinese businesses) simply ask that we are also given this opportunity to dialogue with the state and federal governments. Regardless of race, we all need funds for growth.”

The Malaysian Indian Business Association (MIBA) said it would be a “waste of time” for Indian businesses to seek financial support from the government.

“MIBA doesn’t want to provoke or offend certain quarters, but we feel that the culture of pleading for government aid is just wrong,” MIBA president P Sivakumar said. “Businesses should not be given short cuts, but we should have in place policies to really address matters.”

MIBA’s membership consists of 700 small and medium businesses.

Sivakumar said the government should not spoon feed businesses with handouts or provide them with shortcuts, but should provide opportunities to entrepreneurs willing to work hard and take risks.

“Those who want to take risks should be given ample chances,” he said, adding that he disapproved of demands for money “just because an election is coming”.

Real policy needed

He said Malay businesses should have little to complain because “most of the time, they get things on a silver platter”.

“We Indians have always been pleading. We ask and ask and we’re not given. They (Malays) are given even if they don’t ask.”

Sivakumar said government aid for Indian businessmen would require political intervention most of the time and would often be poorly channelled.

“Usually it is through agencies that are originally for Bumiputera needs, but are forced to open up a little for Indian businesses after political parties get involved. And, usually, it is channelled to sources that are not even really involved in business,” he said.

If Indian businessmen were successful, Sivakumar said, it would be through their own efforts.

He called for a “real policy” to help the Indians.