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Rich, richer, richest Malaysians – envy, not jealousy for your fellow Bumis who are BBs



ALL rise! Hail the Malay `BBs’ – bumiputera billionaires. Where ratings agencies give triple `A’ ratings for exemplary corporate performance, it is high time we cast `envious eyes’ – (don’t bounce out yet, bear with me) –  at what can; because of the corona frown, be considered a rare (and now endangered) species.

Forbes, has just announced its Rich Malaysians list. Invest in the biggest magnifying glass you can afford, but you will not find an Abdul or a Mohammad in the list. Bumis – you still have some way to go.

It is around this time of year when a now defunct local business publication will come up with its version of Malaysia’s Richest Tycoons edition.

Published without fail year in year out, this will have been the culmination of dedicated trawling and meticulous sifting of information mined from publicly available sources. The most reliable being the declarations lodged at the Companies Commission or filings to the local bourse.

The usual suspects will fill the top positions – indeed categorised in the billionaire band – your usual banking, casino and gaming czars who are mostly first or second generation Chinese who are especially mercantile in building their fortunes.

In the beginning, no Malay names made it to the list – millionaires, what more billionaires; but as edition built upon edition, there emerged one, then two and three.

But none ascended the ladder sufficiently high to reside in the billionaire bracket.

Now, what’s this I hear of an ongoing court case that nails the lie that bumis are willing, but unable; to be billed as billionaires? Well – almost; for a certain politician was a tad (just a hundred million ringgit) shy of amassing a fortune of the big `B’!

I have no truck with the size of his wealth – by all accounts he was especially adept at picking and owning shares in industrial and commercial conglomerates for which he deservedly profited.

What’s at issue and being dragged before the courts was how a mere two million – yes, who was it who would have described this figure as just weekend spending money – being the sum a willing businessman bequeathed to what was at the material time, the ruling party.

I put myself in my imaginary LV carpet slippers – ahem ahem, worn by another very rich son of this soil – interpret the defence as: “Come on ya’all; I am worth billions, would I be so hard-up for a piffling two million?” Let’s see what the learned judge is already penning in his mind in response to this one.

In a way, we should not be surprised at the financial prowess of members of my ethnic community lately.

Some only learnt that another minister was in the billionaire bracket only after his death during divvying up of the inheritance.

Then there are those who steadfastly remain private entities not subject to stricter capital market scrutiny.

Stories abound of politico fat cats who fly their spare spouses all over the world in their private airforce giving a kampung twist to the pleasures of the mile high club.

So, be jealous all you want, be envious for all you are worth – these billionaires are a breed apart.

But hold it….of all of the seven deadly sins, perhaps envy is excusable. The Malays call it cemburu, as opposed to iri hati or dengki (which equates to jealousy).

Cemburu or envy leaves room for attempts at emulation, while dengki and iri hati may spur one to ill-thoughts – and hence, ill-deeds.

So envy the BBs – aspire to their lofty positions, and remember your friends when you arrive at your destination.





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