It's no secret that most of the richest people in South East Asia whose names are listed in the Forbe's List are Chinese with Ananda Krisnan representing the Indian. They are all business tycoons as are the other billionaires of the world, representing leaders in their own individual field of business with their own legendary style of making their fortune.
Enough has been written about them in the Papers and Magazines. What i would like to focus on are the nouveau riche among the Malays. A number of them, without mentioning names, are also business tycoons and timber merchants, especially from Sabah and Sarawak. But they are few and far between. Who are the others whose living style and luxurious homes easily point them out as one of Malaysian's new Bumiputra millionaires? No doubt there are some businessmen too. But otherwise they are current or ex-'Yang Berhormat' or corporate leaders. The most visible transformation from 'rags' ( not necessarily very poor but very much of kampung standard) to 'riches' ( not necesairly millionaires but with country homes and a fleet of BMWs and Mercs) are found among the former group, and they exist at all levels ie. Federal, State and Local. You can easily meet a friend in the village who was once a humble teacher or even a carpenter, who is now a YB, and moving around in a chauffeur driven Merc or BMW.
This is indeed a magnificent example of social mobility that Malaysia has achieved it its 52 years of Independence. It's a sign of achievement we should all be very proud of, although there's a tendency among the Malays to give such achievement 'the sour grape look'. We shouldn't be bothered about that for all good Muslims believe that worldly endowment or 'rezki' comes from Allah, and He gives it to whomsoever He wants. And that 'rezki' did not come by itself but had to be earned.
What should be given some thoughts to is the fact that more of the new rich seem to come from the political ranks rather than the business hierarchy. This fact itself must be statistically proven or disproved, but that seems to be the situation as of today.
If true than the political business is producing more successful entrepreneurs than the trades and economic enterprises. Is that wrong? Maybe not but the consequences could be very undesirable. Let's give it some deep thoughts.
In the first instance the Bumiputras will be more interested in the political business rather than the trade and economic enterprises which form the basis or real progress and development. The NEP in the past had tried to increase the number of Bumi entrepreneurs to achieve a balance in the occupational structure of the population. If the number and equity target faialed to be achieved could it not be due to the fact that the political business was more attractive in that it presents a shortcut to prosperity? Our leaders must give this a serious atention for the political business is easier to enter into than the real trade and economic business that our Chines and Indian friends have excelled in all these years.
Another undesirable consequence is that the political business being easier to enter into gets mixed up with the real trade and economic business. The first is used as a prop for the second and therefore the vicissitude of political progress and standing affects the latter. A company can go bust if the leader looses his political position and clout. We must take note that in the case of our Chinese and Indian friends. success in the trade and economic enterprise often comes first before they are chosen to become leaders in the political business.
As a result of the above the Bumiputra trade and business enterprises , even after reaching some level of corporate success, might not continue to prosper and might even begin to crumble when the political fortune of their leaders declines. And this can happen very often because of the effervescent nature of politics. I might add here that even the most successful of our national corporate bodies such as Petronas etc might ultimately suffer because of changes in leadership as required by the political business.
Finally, the long term goal of the nation to even up the participation of the Bumis in the business and corporate sector of the national economy, increase equity participation and reduce identification or race with occupation ( which should have been achieved through the NEP) in order to promote national unity, could be stultified by a greater interest among the Bumis to participate in the political business rather than in the trade and economic enterprises. Such tendency might be further enhanced by the fact that even getting some of the funds allocated for the promotion of Bumiputra business enterprise can become easier if you have some political pull. The situation is made worst if the political business partners themselves get more of the fund.
So, politics must start to become less of a business and more of a dignified profession if the Bumis are to be stopped from crowding into that concern and go into the real trade and economic enterprises. We must see more Bumiputra millionaires coming from the trade and economic business sector rather than from the Dewan Undangan Negeri and Parliament or from the Yang Berhormat group of businessmen. The line between businessmen and politco-businessmen must also be drawn to stop a business from going bust if a politician looses his power.
( Suggested Readings: Google Wealthy Politicians and read: 'Do not elect wealthy politicians' and Celebrity Politicians and Wealthy CEOs)