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Making a better Malay versus Making a better Malaysia

I believe Nazir Razak recently delivered (or wrote) a speech that has gone viral. I received it from more than one person. The only reason the thing has gone viral is because Nazir Razak is the brother of the other Razak. 

Here are some points I sussed out and my comments after that : 

MAKING A BETTER MALAYSIA

SPEECH BY DATO SRI NAZIR RAZAK

CHEVENING ALUMNI LEADERSHIP TALK 

16TH NOVEMBER 2020

I thought I would get a bit risqué and talk to you about “Making a better Malaysia”

OSTB :  Risque?  The dictionary says :   ‘risqué,  ADJECTIVE, slightly indecent and liable to shock, especially by being sexually suggestive’.   Anyway.

  • joined CIMB in 1989, straight after degree 
  • CIMB Group CEO 1999-2014 
  • CIMB Chairman 2014-2018

OSTB : Fresh graduate to CEO in 10 years.


Since 2018 Chairman and Founder of Ikhlas Capital

OSTB : There was a change in government in 2018.

  • Malaysia doesn’t have an economy
  • it only has a political economy
  • We have extensive elements of a command economy 
  • yet our posture is one of a capitalist free market one
  • It is often dangerous to pretend to be what you are not. 


  • Govt has a huge presence in the M’sian economy
  • From licenses, quotas, state agencies, affirmative action of 1970’s
  • GLCs (40% of market cap of Bursa)
  • rampant practice of money politics which influences regulations, policies

how distortive and damaging much of this has been

  • While I was in the thick of it, during my CIMB career
  • I think I had a pretty decent moral compass
  • but I was a very willing actor in the system

OSTB : Running with the hares and hunting with the hounds ? I read this to the Mrs and she just laughed. 

If something didn’t seem morally right, … more often I would prefer to say it was none of my business

OSTB : Come again? And you said this to the Mat Sallehs at Oxford? 

  • Most of us in the system were like that
  • 1990’s IPO’s for companies on stock exchange
  • every case involved preferential allocation of shares to bumis under NEP
  • no clear nor consistent processes of selecting who would get the shares 
  • those with political links had best access to share allocations
  • rather than redistributing to bumi needy money went into highly distortive politics


  • 1980’s model of developing bumi billionaires 
  • govt support politician-hand-picked individuals to become businessmen
  • govt support included directed lending by under regulated banks
  • why did we think politicians can handpick good businessmen? 
  • Why did we think easy contacts and capital can build solid businesses? 
  • Many of these companies drowned in debt and became nationalised GLC’s
  • govt dominance in the economy didn’t change after the AFC

corporate nexus between govt and major businesses remained

difference being politician-hand-picked individuals replaced by professionals 

But professionals reported ultimately to the same political masters

  • I am not criticizing the system that was put in place following May 13th, 1969 
  • now 50 years and the 1970-designed system remains substantially in place
  • The system is no longer fit for purpose 
  • Malaysia is in dire need of another system reset
  • Our system run by three headed monster- Identity politics, money, power 


My comments : 

This is actually quite good. Nazir Razak (who I hope is an opinion leader among his circles) can see that the system is terribly wrong and flawed.  Recognising the problem is the first step towards working towards a solution.  Because a large number of Malay politicians (until today) and the Malay elite feel that there is no problem with the system.

Dr Mahathir feels that if he can build the 3rd national car our problems will be solved. Many other Malays feel that if we lick the corruption all our problems wil be solved. They do not see that the system (the falsafah hidup) is corrupt. The corruption is a natural outcome of a corrupt system.

But Nazir Razak is missing quite a few points. Which are significant. There are no non-Malays in his speech. He does not refer to the almost 15 million non Muslims (aka non Malays) that populate the country. 

Go back and look at those highlights in green. (Actually there are many more but I dont have time). Replace the greens with ‘Malay’.  That is the real subject or object of this speech. 

What about the rest of the country? What about the rest of the 32 million people?

Thus the speech also highlights the core issue – this is a Malay / bumiputra problem. 

The Malays / bumiputras still have plenty catching up to do. This is not a crime. We all must stop to help each other. 

The Malays / bumiputras still lag behind in education, in the economy, in social standards, in just about everything.

The whole problem is the Malays need to catch up. 

The method that has been adopted (for the past 50 years) is seriously flawed. That is the part highlighted in yellow above. Also called the New Economic Policy.

There are two huge flaws with the NEP (and also missing from Nazir Razak’s narrative)

No. 1  is the over reliance on taxpayers funds.

No. 2 is choking off, strangling, tripping up, making things difficult for the normal and uninterrupted functioning of a significant source of the taxpayers funds ie the non Malay taxpayers.

Pre oil-money (before 1980s) and now much less oil-money (post 2014 and getting worse) the dependence on the non Malay taxpayer is going to increase. This is the goose that lays the golden egg.

The other Razak once made another one of his famously facile statements ‘we can use government procurement to bring up the Malays‘. I was there when he said it.  

(facile,  ADJECTIVE,  ignoring the true complexities of an issue; superficial)

No you cannot use government procurement to bring up the Malays. It does not work. Do you want proof? Well 50 years of the NEP have gone and trillions of Ringgits have been spent through Government procurement and you have produced a banker who can go from freshie to CEO in 10 years and is out of a job the moment his patron is kicked out of office. Now he will be writing risque speeches and conducting ‘studies’ to determine what went wrong. That is proof enough.

And I have a question / prediction – will there be any South Africa goats (or chickens) in the future? Because I have personally met more than one of these ‘annointed sons’ whose parachutes got cut and now they have South African goats and chickens in their portfolios.

I dont have time. Let me conclude this. 

1. I have said this before and I will say this again. We cannot do away with the Affirmative Action. No Affirmative Action this country will burn. Non Malays just accept it. I think many non Malays have accepted this fact.

2. You cannot trip up, obstruct, prevent the non Malays from equal opportunities to pursue wealth and happiness. Other than the fact that is just wrong and inhumane, if you trip the non Malays you are just killing the Goose that Lays The Golden Eggs. I am talking about taxpayers funds. 

Minus oil money (pre-1980s and now post 2014 and getting scarce)  the dependence on taxpayer funded “government procurement”  to bring up the Malays is going to face severe problems. 

Because taxpayers funds are getting scarce too.  Because you have tripped up the non Malay economy so much.

With 19 million Malays still expecting handouts, you need a very large cheque book. Where is that money coming from? 

One deputy minister has made an asinine suggestion (asinine,  ADJECTIVE,  extremely stupid or foolish) that we print paper money. Another MP has suggested that we levy a super tax on glove manufacturers.

The solution lies in marrying Affirmative Action with the Free Market.  Other countries have done it. One example being the United States. Another is (or was – pre BJP)  India.

Of course when you marry Affirmative Action with the Free Market you may not be able to go from freshie graduate to CEO of the largest bank in 10 years. That is elitism. That has to go too. 

So how? Est qu’une proposition faisable?

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