A Trade for a Song

Had a rather busy day today. In the morning, I was invited by the new EU Ambassador HE Maria Castillo Fernandez to give a short talk to the Ambassadors from respective EU countries. After a short talk, there was an informal questions and answers session.

Since I was in the KLCC zone, I then decided to meet some of my old contacts from my corporate past. I was just in time to catch lunch with some of my friends and former clients. While the ambassadors were interested in some of my political and economic views, the lunch was an opportunity to ask for the views of corporate Malaysia.

Over lunch, I learnt that these businessmen have sharply differing views of China’s investment in Malaysia than most politicians. While I do not generally oppose investments, I am wary of corruption disguised as investments because ultimately, the public has to repay these loans.

A young CEO offered an interesting psychological argument on why China’s investments in Malaysia, may in fact see high local participation in such ventures. His argument is simple but logical. Because of decades of the one child policy, many China executives have deep family duties to their very demanding and aging parents. While they may venture to Malaysia at the start, after a system is set up, most of these executives have family obligations to return to China. This means that in phase 2, local Malaysians will then take over most of these executive posts. Others believe that China’s presence will also introduce a more “can do” business attitude to the local market. Most agreed that our cosy crony businessmen sorely need a kick in the butt to make us more competitive.

Whether these businessmen are right or wrong, only time will tell.

For us who are Parliamentarians, our concerns are much more basic. So long as the leadership of our country is weak and corrupt, our best economic interests will never be protected. It does not matter whether the investment originates from America, Europe or China. What matters most is when our ministers are negotiating these investments, that we are negotiating with clarity and from a position of economic strength.

If we are weak economically, as evidenced in the high national debt level and austere public finances, we are not really negotiating but begging. Beggars cannot choose. Beggars can only give away the last of our prized possessions. My job, when we resume Parliament in March, is to ensure that this feckless government do not give away all our ports and railway infrastructure for a song.

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