By FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic TMR
FORMER Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahatir Mohamad (picture), warned that Malays need to empower themselves economically, otherwise foreign powers would control us through economic power.
Dr Mahathir made his remarks during an event organised by the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), in which he spoke about how the nation should deal with poverty issues as part of its national agenda.He said the current situation showed that while some parts of the country were experiencing rapid growth, other areas had yet to benefit from the fruits of development.
“When we are poor, we are weak. When we are weak (economically), we will be controlled by stronger people, namely people who are not poor. Not just individually, but within the scope of nations and countries. If we are poor, we will be colonised directly or indirectly.”
“If we are poor, one day our country will be sold to richer people. In general, I believe we can all agree that hardcore poverty can be more on the Malays than the Chinese or Indians.”
He added that Malays needed to understand what causes poverty and work hard towards solving it.
“Poverty in society needs to be overcome by society, but it also depends on the individual. If they do not respond well, even a society or government trying to tackle poverty will not succeed,” he stated.
He added that the way the Malays responded to poverty depended largely on whether they believed that the state could solve problems or that individuals had to take matters into their own hands.
“It’s because of this attitude that we’ve been left behind compared to the non-Malay communities. Despite the best efforts made by the government, we still remain poor. We must ask ourselves why?” he said.
Citing the example of Arab states, he noted that despite being rich in natural resources like oil, these countries did not exploit such wealth until outsiders came along.
“They started exploiting their resources once they became rich, unlike the Arabs before them. Back then, these foreign companies sold 2 dollars per barrel of oil while paying the locals-only 20 cents. Hence, they were exploited.”
He went on to say that until the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was created, these countries were not benefiting much from their own oil production.
“These outsiders saw the opportunity to make money out of it and took advantage of the Arabs’ lackadaisical approach. This has changed now that OPEC exists. However, they still rely heavily on those who are competent in terms of administration and marketing.”
“That’s why we see poverty is caused by ability. It depends on our value system. In Malaysia, the lands that had tin ores were owned by the Malay elites who, back then, used only a hoe to cultivate the fields. Yet when it was purchased by the Chinese, they used new, more efficient means.”
He explained that this showed that Malays needed to develop their capabilities and skills to be competitive in the global market.
“We cannot continue relying on the government to solve all our problems. Our economy must be driven by our strengths instead of depending on external factors unless we wish to stay poor forever,” he remarked.
“Our problem today is that we have too many people dependent on handouts rather than creating jobs. A large percentage of the population is unemployed and lives off welfare programmes funded by taxpayers,” he pointed out.
He explained that the solution lies in individual initiative and responsibility.
“Those who become rich are those who strive. Those who become poor are those who let others take their chances. Do we want to do what is easy or do we want to do what is difficult but will bring results?”
He concluded that it is imperative to study the root cause of poverty and work together to eradicate it with the right attitude.