Commentary Politics

Polemic and Economics of “Jual Negara”

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the ECRL groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at the ECRL groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday

TheMole
Written by TheMole
By Salahuddin Hisham
 
Aug 11, 2017

THE current buzz in social media is the presence of Chinese banners and signages at the site for the launch of the construction of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in Kuantan. PERKASA secretary-general Syed Hassan has accused the government of compromising the sanctity of the national language, hence it is considered as “jual negara” (selling the country).

A PPBM committee member described it as the manifestation of the political and economic hegemony of the leading communist empire in the world. It is interesting that a DAP-allied party member labeling their opponent as pro-communist.

Pictures and videos of the launch do not indicate so. Nevertheless, language is a symbol of national identity and sovereignty thus it should be treated seriously. However, quick-draw labeling of “jual negara” is an overdone political rhetoric.

Salahuddin Hisham was involved in various financial markets but has since, turned political and online.

Generally, all Malaysians, including English-speaking Malays and the corporate sector stand accused of “jual negara”. MITI and Wisma Putera too are guilty of using English in their affairs abroad. They should be speaking in Malay and have translators.  

It is just cynicism for “pejuang bahasa” (language defenders) to appreciate the practicality. The same Syed Hassan was either supportive or held back criticisms when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad introduced the PPSMI program to use English as language for Mathematics and Science subjects in schools.  

Political polemics and rhetoric will always have inconsistencies. More so with Dr Mahathir doing frequent U turns to be acceptable to his new political allies.

He attacked Forest City as “jual negara” to China and conjured up accusations of 700,000 Chinese nationals bring offered citizenship. He has forgotten about the 51,170 hectares land as Linggiu water catchment and dam he gave to Singapore in a Johor-Singapore PWD Agreement signed in 1990.

Now that Proton and Forest City issues were debunked, a new issue is needed to repeat the same accusation Dr Mahathir did on Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to Prime Minister, Datuk Mohd Najib Abdul Razak in yet another of his attempt to oust another prime minister.

Back then it was Singapore, now China. During reformasi, Dr Mahathir’s foreign ghost was the Americans.  But now he is collaborating with western hands.   

Celebrity Chef Wan has been selling the country’s cuisine to the world. Foreigners would be eating Malaysian food and who knows, Malaysians could be denied their flavored dishes. But they would argue that it helps promote local agricultural products and ingredients.

Every political argument will find justification in economics or anything tangible. Even the political philosophy of liberalism, which is synonymous with personal freedom and human rights, was motivated by economic motive for free market and to protect owners of capital.

Was it not “jual negara” to Buy British Last but end up Looking East to be used by the Japanese as low-cost manufacturing post and new market for Japanese products and machinery without much tangible benefit except jobs but burdened with repayment of Yen loan?

It could be asked: Is it not “jual negara” to sell TNB, Telekom, IPP, Proton, Bank Bumiputera via Bank Commerce and many more national assets to foreigners by getting it listed on the stock exchange?

Maybe they can ask themselves as to why PNB bought back the country by taking over Guthrie, but later listed it and sold shares to foreigners?

The subsequent question will be: What if we emulate the US$2 trillion Aramco that listed its shares and raised US$100 billion for Saudi Arabia to invest its long-term future? Listing Petronas could raise RM325 billion and slash national debt by half. Will the act by Aramco and Petronas be considered as “jual negara”?

It is a difficult question with no right or wrong answer.

The point is Malaysia is a small nation with limited market and cannot live in isolation. It is a trading nation and dependent on foreign trade, market, capital and even labour since the days of the Melaka Empire. One can then say that Malaysians have been “jual negara” for centuries.

The same “jual negara” accusation was also levied at Indonesian President Jokowi for attracting foreign investments into Indonesia including from China.

His reply was Indonesia learned from communist China to open up to foreign investment. Thereon, the Chinese learned, accumulate capital and develop technology to be a major economic power of the day.   

He dispelled the arguments of foreign property ownership and investment in road and port development as “jual negara”. It cannot be taken away and moved back to China.

There is a need to understand the new economic mindset in the era of free flow of capital, expertise, and information.

Britain may have been bitten by the Brexit bug but the reality is what was considered British has taken a new meaning with most British brands and companies having substantial or even majority foreign ownership.  

But, foreign investment in British companies benefitted Britain in others ways. By sharing with foreign investors, Britain got out of a stagnant economy as the economic pie grew.        

Ultra nationalist economic idea for a close self-sustainable country is not practical. As we wrote before, “Nationalism will not fix Proton’s power window”. It has to be practical and not be in-denial in facing up to current global trends and challenges.

The heralded nationalism initiatives for nation building through the 80s, 90s and early 2000 cost the country tens or maybe hundred billions in failed projects, bailout and leakages through corruption, cronyism and nepotism!

Nationalists have to be consistent as to not be collaborating with Western hands.

On one hand, they accuse government of being pro-China. When US State Secretary paid respect to the PM, Malaysia is accused of being pro-American.

Aramco invested in RAPID Pengerang but no pro-Saudi was heard. Qatar has US$15 billion investment in Malaysia, so pro-Qatar?  What happens if other countries use Malaysia as investment launch pad?  

The Chinese massive RM133 billion investments are purely economic. The financial package offered to Malaysia is attractive and unmatched by previous FDI from other countries. Was it not a certain someone that cajoled China to come out and take economic leadership of Asia through an initiative called EAEG, then EAEC?

When TPPA started, he got cold feet from the initial rounds of negotiations. It is too bad Trump got cold feet too. It would be interesting to see his reaction to Malaysia’s ability to preserve its national interest and access to the largest economic block in the world.   

The borderless world of today requires Malaysia to be receptive to inflow of investment as much as we want the same ease to invest abroad. We can’t have the cake and eat it too.

 Most relevant accusation of “jual negara” applies in cases where public money was used and abused. The financial scandals and mismanagement of Perwaja, BMF, Bank Negara Malaysia forex losses, Proton, Maminco, KLCC land flip, public transport bailout by Prasana, Bakun dam, Putrajaya and many more came at a cost to the nation.

And if money leaked into certain private hands and stashed away at some money laundering centre like Uruguay or off-shore financial centre at some resort islands, it is plundering of the country.

No one should be accused till evidence has been presented and undergone due court process. It is only the price majority Malays pay for using a certain leader with no benefit for him.

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