The curse of ‘seven generation cronyism’

Chinese people have a proverb which says that wealth lasts only three generations. But were you aware of a Malay saying that covers seven generations?

The Chinese saying is that the first generation works hard to build the family fortune, the second generation reaps the benefits, but the third squanders the wealth.

I know many second-generation Malay families who still cherish hard work, but the values that they and their parents once had are rarely passed on to their children.

The third generation live a life of pampered luxury and much of the wealth is spent. How will they survive once their grandparents and parents have gone?

Look closely and you may find many parallels about the three generations in Malaysia.

Our founding fathers built the country on a solid foundation left by the British. We had an independent judiciary, a sound civil service, an education system that was among the best in Asia, a peaceful multicultural nation. That was the country which the first generation worked hard to nurture.

Then came the second-generation Malaysians. Certain leaders took over, tinkered with the nation, and today, the damage inflicted is still being felt. Schoolchildren are afraid to speak English for fear of being branded unpatriotic. Many of our institutions have become compromised and lost their independence.

We crammed people from the villages into emerging manufacturing factories. We held cash crops like oil palm in high esteem, and farmers were encouraged to grow them. They neglected to grow the crops that are needed to feed us and now, we are heavily dependent on food imports. We lack food security.

We stigmatised agriculture so the workforce would man our factories. The government filled the gaps left behind with cheap foreign labour. Unlike small family-owned vegetable farms, the commercial farms, oil palm plantations, and nurseries are dependent on workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar or Nepal.

Foreign investors bypass Malaysia and opt to build in neighbouring countries.

The second generation will leave behind a country that has been stripped of most of its natural wealth and drained of its best minds and talent.

The third generation will not recover and the country will suffer if we do not do our collective best to restore the Malaysia that was “stolen” from us.

Many complain that Dr Mahathir Mohamad started the rot, but they say nothing about successive prime ministers who did not attempt to undo the mess he allegedly created. In fact, they merely “perfected the techniques”.

Handouts do not help the Malays, but make them more dependent. Mahathir is fond of saying some Malays are lazy and should not be dependent on government aid. Almost in the same breath, he claims the Malays need more help. Which is correct?

How can anyone say the Malays are lazy? Have they seen how rubber tappers, padi farmers and fishermen toil? It is back-breaking work, from before dawn to late at night. The people who make the money are the middlemen and the cronies in charge of marketing their produce.

Malays who cross the Causeway every day to work in Singapore are not lazy. Malays who find both legal and illegal work on farms in Australia are not lazy. The system in Malaysia is slewed in such a way that foreign migrants work for a pittance, so who can blame Malaysians for rejecting these low-paid jobs?

At the other end of the scale, there are some who believe they can do no wrong, and have a strong entitlement culture. They think they are deserving of the benefits, perks and privileges, despite lacking skills and qualifications.

Well-connected Malays are awarded government contracts because of who they know, not what they know.

This is where the “seven generation” saying comes in. When cronies are awarded contracts, it is said the agreement will last for seven generations. This means his family members are taken care of for life. Naturally, these companies are less than transparent and very few of the rakyat will know how their money is being spent.

To effect change, you must get rid of the “seven generation cronyism”.

By : Mariam Mokhtar – FMT

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