Our corrupt and exploitative business community is a part of the problem, not a part of the solution

In this country, the authorities won’t force you to pay bribes if you stopped at a traffic light. You only have to pay bribes if the authorities stop you after you run over a traffic light.

Nehru Sathiamoorthy

According to a recent study by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), 63 percent of the business community claim they are forced to give bribes to authorities out of fear that if they don’t, their business and livelihood will be affected.

You have to hand it to our business community. After the politicians, if there is any segment in the country that has an aptitude of gaslighting the nation, it is the business community.

The way our business community portrays it, they appear as good and innocent people who are forever bent on doing only what is good and right, but despite that, the authorities still shake them down, by telling them that if they don’t pay up, the authorities will find a way to close down their business.

We all know what the business community is saying is utter nonsense because all of us are probably aware of how corruption works in this country.

In this country, the authorities won’t force you to pay bribes if you stopped at a traffic light. You only have to pay bribes if the authorities stop you after you run over a traffic light.

Similarly, if 63 percent of the business community feel compelled to pay bribes, it is because they are breaking the law in some way or another. If they are paying bribes, it is either because they are colluding with the authorities to let them break the law without facing consequences or to avoid punishment after being caught for breaking the law.

At some point, we really have to stop looking at our business community as some sort of asset, whose every inane opinion has to be listened to or even followed, even to the expense of the workers or the transformation of the country’s economy for the better, because if our business community gives the idea, it must be true and for the good of the country, and it is only if we support our business community and make sure that they do well, that our country will be well.

We have to stop this because, as the study suggests, up to 63 percent of those in the business community might actually be criminally minded and exploitative. Rather than as an asset to the economy, they might be the reason why our economy is permanently stuck in the middle-income trap. They are definitely a main reason for the widespread exploitation of foreign and B40 workers in the economy and might be a primary reason why corruption is rampant in the country. If we continue listening to them, they might reduce us back into a state of a third world economy that took us generations to rise out from.

Even slave owners in antebellum America claimed that if the slaves were freed, their business and livelihood would be ruined.

The 63 percent of business people who give bribes are not victims being forced to give bribes despite being law-abiding citizens. They are crooks in collusion with the authorities to conduct illegal activities.

The reason our business community is addicted to foreign labor is not because local workers are spoiled or lazy, as they claim, but because they are in the business of exploitation. Their business is not about making and selling goods and services that can confidently compete in the market, but about exploiting the labor of low-income and foreign workers, whom they often treat as no better than slaves.

Our business community might be the reason why foreign investors are afraid of coming into the country. Claiming that the authorities’ corruption is the reason foreign investors are hesitant doesn’t really make sense. Authorities are not the ones who deal with foreign investors when they come to the country. It is actually our business community that interacts the most with foreign investors. Considering that up to 63 percent of our business community might be involved in corrupt activities, it is likely because our business community is prone to use underhanded tactics to gain an advantage over foreign investors or foreign competitors, that they are reluctant to invest in our country.

The recent criticism by a labor organization might indeed be true. The activation of the EPF Account 3 scheme last May 11 was likely done more for the interests of the business community than for low-income workers. The government claims they introduced Account 3 for the sake of workers, but the truth is they probably did it to follow the bidding of the business community. It is probably the business community that wanted low-income workers to dig into their retirement savings and pump the money back into the economy, so the billions of ringgit that the 16 million workers in the country pump back into the economy can be used by the business community to make a profit, even if the introduction of the Account 3 is widely panned by experts as being counterproductive to the interest of the working class.

It is about time that we stop believing in this unsubstantiated and misinformed narrative that our business community is only a force for good in the economy and that they developed the economy by being intelligent, honest, and hardworking.

Even if this narrative has some truth to it, it is just half the truth.

The other half of the truth is that our business community might actually be the reason our economy can never become truly developed. They are the problem because they are addicted to such bad habits like corruption and exploitation, which they have internalized and normalized to such an extent, they don’t even see themselves as the perpetrators of corruption or exploitation anymore. Instead, they are deluding themselves into believing they are the victims of the corruption and exploitation that they themselves practise and promulgate.