Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak makes the same old promises to the Indian business community at a lavish dinner.
After nine meetings in selected cities around peninsular Malaysia over a period of three months, with the aim of gathering vital and relevant information about the problems faced by Indian businessmen, the Malaysian Indian Economic Conferences (MIEC) finally came to a conclusion on June 9 with a grand scale dinner attended by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
MIEC was initiated by the Malaysian Associated Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MAICCI) headed by prominent businessman, Kenneth Easwaran.
MIEC organisers handed over a blueprint memorandum to the prime minister containing the problems faced by the Indian business community. The memorandum also offered some solutions to such problems.
MAICCI’s efforts should be lauded. However, the climax to their initiative and the promises made by the prime minister at the dinner were nothing more than the usual promises already made by the BN government.
At the MIEC conference, the prime minister announced that the government has set aside RM180 million for loans to be made available to the Indian businessmen. As the PM himself pointed out, this allocation was not new since it was already announced during the 2012 budget presentation.
“What the Indian businessmen really need are opportunities and not loans. These loans can be obtained by any good businessman without any government assistance provided they have a good cash flow accounts.
“The Indian business community should be given opportunities such as participation in government tenders, participation in GLCs (government linked companies) and business licenses but instead what the government is doing is making the Indian community mere borrowers,” said one businessman who attended the MIEC conference.
“There is no point in announcing again and again that the government is giving loans without any announcement of opportunities. Businessmen are already facing problems in getting these loans because many of them have been blacklisted by banks and other agencies such as CTOS and CCRIS. So new opportunities should be created and provided to the Indian business community so that a new set of young business entrepreneurs can emerge,” he added.
In fact, the failure to get loans because of blacklisting by CTOS and CCRIS was the major problem highlighted by the participants in all the MIEC conferences. It is not only the concern of Indians but many Malaysians.
The prime minister also announced that he would look into the woes of businessmen affected by bankruptcies and blacklisting.
However, nothing can be done about the problems faced by bankrupts as the respective laws are well-defined unless the government is prepared to change the laws.
To what extent CTOS and CCRIS would respond to the prime minister’s announcement and make the necessary changes is something we have to wait and see.
The prime minister’s announcement that he would look into GLC contracts for Indians was also without any specific directives.
This has been raised on many occasions but nothing has been done so far by the government. So once again this announcement looks like another political propaganda without any specific guidelines.
Squabbles among Indian business chambers
What was glaring at all the MIEC conferences was the non-participation of the Kuala Lumpur- Selangor Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (KLSICCI) which has always been the major component of MAICCI, being one of the oldest Indian business chambers in the country which pioneered and initiated the MAICCI itself.
One of the council members of KLICCI, not willing to disclose his identity, commented: “We welcome MAICCI’s efforts and initiatives but at the same time we must remember that for years MAICCI has been operating without the participation of our KL and Selangor chambers.
“Even in MIEC conferences our participation or views were not sought. Even the dinner gathering where PM attended was a mere political show without the participation of many businessmen from the KL and Selangor Chambers. There is no point in seeking dialogues with the government when the business chambers themselves are divided.”
The KLSICCI and MAICCI are involved in a legal tussle whereby KLSICCI has been excluded from participation in MAICCI’s activities. MAICCI is only an umbrella body of various Indian business chambers at state level without any direct membership of individual businessman whereas KLSICCI has a direct membership of about 800 businessmen from KL and Selangor.
Since such a large number of businessmen in KLSICCI are keeping away from the activities of MAICCI, this problem should be addressed and solved first before embarking on opportunities from the government.
In the final count, the nationwide MIEC conferences ended with the usual political rhetoric without any new specific allocations or opportunities for the Indian business community.
RJ Rajah is an observer and writer on politics and social issues with a keen interest particularly in Malaysian Indian affairs