Sin Chew Daily
During a recent interview with Hong Kong's Asia Times, Tun Mahathir had plenty to say about the "wealthy" Chinese. The wealth gap between Chinese and other races, as well as that between urban and rural folks, has been an unhealthy phenomenon of "wealth disparity".
The former prime minister also said such disparity could "cause resentment and even lead to a lot of tension and confrontation". He said his biggest regret being twice the prime minister of Malaysia was his failure in addressing the problem of wealth disparity among people of different races.
We have some question for Tun over his "rich Chinese" assertion.
1. We would appreciate if he would kindly produce substantial evidence to support his statement that the Chinese people are indeed wealthier. Not just by his own feelings.
2. Assuming the Chinese are richer, they should have paid more taxes and have therefore contributed much more to the nation's development compared to other ethnic groups. Is he going to admit this, too?
3. Assuming the Chinese are richer, they should have also helped bring up the country's GDP and per capita income. We are quite sure he doesn't want a country whose people share the poverty equally, right?
Tun Mahathir should reflect on himself in this particular issue.
Firstly, if he is really concerned about the woes of the people, he should have realized that there are a lot of Chinese who are having problem making ends meet.
Secondly, his competency is questionable as he is unable to close the wealth gap among people of different races, having been PM twice.
Thirdly, will wealth disparity trigger a revolution? As a former PM who is no longer in office today, it is unbecoming for him to make such an inflammatory statement.
His "rich Chinese" presumption is highly inappropriate. The paltry riches of the Chinese is not a windfall that drops from the sky. We have to work our way to make a meager living in total absence of government assistance, and save every single cent of our hard earned money to be what we are now.
Having been twice a PM, he should have taught some people in this country to abandon their crutches and work hard to improve their lives. He has made a good deal of missteps and lapses, but few are worse than this.
It is hoped that our new government can take cue from it and inculcate a berdikari new national spirit to attain wealth through hard work.
Malaysians' dignity can be reclaimed by abandoning the crutch culture.
Talking about wealth disparity, the problem is actually not that serious here if we look at the "Gini coefficient".
The United Nations' 2018 statistics show that Malaysia's Gini coefficient was 0.428 (1984-2016 average: 0.435), comparable to Singapore (0.398) and Indonesia (0.392). By contrast, Thailand (0.902) and the Philippines (0.479) are much more serious than us but rarely have we heard of a revolution there because of wealth disparity.
If we look at the Gini coefficient, Mahathir's "wealth disparity" theory is hardly valid and could spark misunderstanding among the Malays that the Chinese have "stolen the country's wealth". This definitely will not help promote intercommunity harmony.
Given his stature, we expect Mahathir to have been more careful in what he says and not to generate conflicts.
Since he is talking so much, perhaps we should take a look at his records as prime minister for 22+2 years and see how he really fares.
During the 22 years from 1981 to 2003 when Mahathir was Malaysia's fourth prime minister, the country's GDP grew from US$25 billion to US$110.2 billion at 4.4-fold increase. During the same period of time, neighboring Singapore's GDP expanded from US$14.2 billion to US$97.7 billion, a 6.9-fold jump! Who should be held responsible for this disparity in economic growth?
If we use another yardstick, per capita income, to gauge a nation's wealth, Tun Mahathir's performance was equally lackluster.
Malaysia's PCI was US$1,784 when Mahathir became PM in 1981, improved to US$4,472 in 2003 when he stepped down, a 2.5-fold increase. By comparison, Singapore's PCI jumped from US$5,819 to US$23,261, or 4-fold increase, during the same period of time. Even in 2018, our per capita GDP was only US$10,460, about the same level achieved by Singapore way back in 1989!
The per capita incomes of these two countries were comparable when Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965. If Mahathir was a competent leader, we should have been able to enjoy the same kind of affluence as the people in Singapore, and not just grumbling about wealth disparity.
Having been PM for 22+2 years, Mahathir cannot be spared from his responsibility for the country's plight today. By right no more in office now he should have more time reflecting on himself instead of talking nonsense and messing things up.