What's the choice?

AddThis

What's the choice?

What's the choice?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
  • Lantern
The Chinese account for eight out of the ten richest people in Malaysia - The Choice.

Now that the Year of the Dragon has begun, it's an opportune time to look at what this year holds for the Chinese community in Malaysia.

 

Making up around 24 percent of the population, this vibrant community is an integral part of our nation's multi-cultural fabric.

 

They are the strongest pillar in the economy, responsible for an overwhelming portion of the income tax paid every year. The Chinese also account for eight out of the ten richest people in Malaysia.

 

The biggest ethnic Chinese parties are, of course, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

 

While DAP unseated MCA in the Penang state election in 2008, it will be interesting to see how both parties compete for the Chinese vote in GE 13.

 

The DAP touts Penang – the only Chinese-majority state – as a poster child for the party, a symbol of what voters can expect if they vote for Pakatan Rakyat nationally in GE-13.

 

The state's economy grew 7.9 percent in 2010, outstripping the 6 percent growth witnessed by the whole country.

 

However, employment fell 1.2 percent in 2011. And Penang's economic growth of 7.9 percent in 2010 actually followed a decline of 1.9 percent in 2009, which it blamed on the financial crisis in the West.

 

Whatever the reason, it's clear that the state's growth machine is more fragile than it looks. And with Western economies remaining stagnant for the foreseeable future, this could spell trouble for Penang.

 

Much of the growth Penang witnessed following the election of Lim Guan Eng's government in 2008 was due to the breath of fresh air a new government inevitably brings with it. The first opposition party to win the state in over 40 years, the DAP was clearly keen to show it could make a difference.

 

But this emotional change seems to have run its course, and with DAP now the incumbent party, voters will vote according to its track record in power. And its record is mixed.

 

Economically, Penang is now stuck with a growth that has begun to mirror the rest of the country. Even the state's much-vaunted export growth has waned, with exports down 4.7 percent in 2010. This stands in stark contrast to Malaysia's overall exports, which have grown 4.9 percent.

 

Politically, the party has not been the champion of meritocracy its supporters may have hoped for. The father-son duo of Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng control decision-making, raising questions over their commitment to party democracy.

 

Kit Siang, in his New Year message, called on the Malaysian Chinese to "unite and rise as one dragon, together with all other Malaysians, to effect a change of power in Putrajaya in the next general elections".

 

He may be better off calling on his own flock to unite. After the unseemly public feud between Karpal Singh and P Ramasamy, voters are disappointed that the party is riven by internal squabbles.

 

MCA, on the other hand, offers stability because of its partnership with Umno.

 

Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek, party president of MCA, said in his New Year message, "Let us hope that the Dragon Year will bring forth greatness to our country's economy, political stability, and a better future for all Malaysians."

 

It's interesting to note that Chua did not turn his New Year message into a political speech, as Kit Siang had tried.

 

In fact, the MCA may well attract more Chinese voters as it offers a more restrained polity that stands in stark contrast to DAP's strident politics.

 

For the Chinese voter, economic growth is important, as is political stability and ethnic harmony.

 

 

More in TheChoice