By Shuqi Wong
Economist Noreena Hertz warned in 2002 that states were silently being taken over by global capitalists. Her book “The silent takeover: global capitalism and the death of democracy” warned of the consequences of unbridled capitalism.
In Malaysia, Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, the 7th richest man in the country is offering to buy over from Khazanah a 42.72% per cent stake in the national automobile manufacturer for RM1.29billion, with 85% of the purchase cost being financed by Maybank.
Who is Syed Mokhtar? For those who might not know him, he is the boss of DRB-Hicom Bhd, Malaysian Mining Corporation (MMC) and Tradewinds Malaysia Berhad. These three corporates control nearly 100 companies which affect multiple aspects of our daily life.
DRB-Hicom Bhd controls over 69 companies, which mainly focus on the automobile industry, properties and others. Apart from Proton, other automobile-related businesses under DRB-Hicom include Modenas, Isuzu Malaysia, Honda Malaysia and EON.
Besides these companies, Puspakom, Pos Malaysia, Uni Asia Insurance, Alam Flora, Desa Puchong Sdn Bhd and Glenmore Property are also in the list of its subsidiaries.
MMC is the infrastructure company which has been awarded to build the over RM50 billion MRT project together with Gamuda. MMC specialises in the logistics and energy industry as well. The biggest independent power producer in the country, Malakoff comes under MMC.
In addition, it controls Tanjung Pelepas Port, Johor Port and Senai Internation Airport. It has tried to take over Penang Port but was unsuccessful.
Last but not least, sugar and rice are the two significant enterprises for Tradewinds, the third company under Syed Mokhtar. After Tradewinds took over former sugar king Robert Kuok’s sugarcane plantations and factories, the BN government immediately increased the regulated price for sugar which was denied to the earlier owner.
In fact, it is not only Syed Mokhtar but also departmental stores, landed properties, chain stores and supermarkets which are all under the control of UMNO cronies like YTL and Berjaya. They decide every detail and quality of our lives.
In the past five decades, Barisan has been nursing Bumi-entrepreneurs and their non-Bumi cronies at the cost of exploiting the people. At the end of the day, we the people have to pay the price.
Noreena Hertz criticised the then UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and US president Ronald Reagan in the 1980s for sacrificing political democracy to fulfill the requirements of mega corporations.
Furthermore, Reagan believed that capitalism would be effective in generating wealth and he was a firm believer of the ‘trickle-down effect’ theory. Neglecting the importance of wealth distribution will lead to a widening gap between the rich and the poor. Eventually, the American dream is now fractured and the people in the States have become the pioneer of the “Occupy” movement.
The silent takeover by BN/UMNO cronies is the most worrisome development in the Malaysia context. Can we expect Syed Mokhtar or other well-connected tycoons to take care of the people?
The core issue in the takeover is the erosion of democracy. Who is the boss of all elected representatives? Shouldn’t elected representatives be responsible to the people? Can we ask non-elected tycoons to be held responsible to the people?
Our nation and the people are being betrayed by UMNO/BN, our own government of the day. Perhaps we should consider toppling them in the next general election. Only then can we replace them with the government of the people, by the people and for the people. -The Rocket