Malaysiakini Letter

Food going to be a bigger problem than race

A Malaysian Economist
Published:  |  Modified:

I am extremely disappointed with Dr Mahathir Mohamad playing the race card in his message and speeches recently. He claimed an erosion of Malay economic power and that non-Malays do not respect Malay institutions such as the Rulers. He also said that Malays are losing political power after the March 8 general elections.

As Dr M is an influential Malay, I need to write something about this. His view is totally wrong given that non-Malays never showed aby disrespect to Malay institutions and also that now, the number of Malays in Parliament is greater than that in 2004. In his personal vendetta to oust PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he has sunk so low, this coming from an ex-prime minister. Dr M was widely admired by Malays and non-Malays during his tenure. It is totally disappointing to see Dr M championing he Malay race in his overzealousness to oust PM Abdullah.

Malaysians know that some Malaysians now called Malays were here only recently and some Chinese who had been here earlier are not called bumiputera due to their names and their religions. All this talk of race and race seems endless and many Malaysians are losing sight of other far greater problems confronting mankind and Malaysians – the energy problem and the associated food problems. Malaysians know that oil prices are rising and so are food prices. And the same goes for other raw commodities.

Non-Malays are the ones who silently suffered in both the education and business areas during BN’s rule. Non-Malays were the ones who have been living in fear whenever we have Umno general assemblies with the keris being waved. It scares the non-Malay children when certain Umno delegates asked when it would be used. Even DPM Najib has said this in 1987 and we hope that as a future prime minister, he would come out openly and say that he regretted saying it. But he has not.

Non-Malays respect the Agong and the Malay Rulers in Malaysia. I am a non-Malay and I totally respect the Agong and the Rulers in Malaysia. This is something that makes Malaysia unique and this is our tradition. Non-Malays will never do anything to hurt the Malay institutions. Karpal Singh argues using case law when he commented on the transfer of the civil servant in Perak. Is it wrong to discuss legal points in Malaysia? Are we living under a bowl and are not open to opposing ideas?

The non-Malays simply want to be treated as equals – not as second-class citizens. Is it illegal and too much to ask for equality in races given that extremely few countries in the world today practice racial discrimination? Malaysia is not a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Is this not backward?

The Pakatan Rakyat coalition already said they are colour and race-blind when it comes to helping Malaysians who are poor. If that is so, how can any race lose out? When we have political leaders championing a certain race, other races will be bound to suffer and it will be never ending. These leaders who champion a certain race do that to stay in power but deep inside, they know they are morally wrong. However, they do it because they enjoy the trappings of power.

One of Malaysia’s most illustrious sons, Onn Jaafar was so farsighted to want to open Umno to other races but others who were shortsighted did not want this. But I see the lessening of racial politics in Malaysia now - fortunately. Dr M belongs to the old era where politicians championed race and the NEP to stay in power. The new Malaysia is a different one now and the new Malaysia should be a Malaysia based on equal opportunities and the coming together of Malaysians regardless of race to solve Malaysia’s problems. I have Malay, Chinese and Indian friends who are very polite, educated, smart and intelligent. We should come together as Malaysians and not as Malays, Chinese or Indians.

In the years ahead, the citizens in Malaysia will have to come together as equal Malaysians and not as Malays, Chinese and Indians to solve Malaysia’s problems. In fact the number one problem facing the world today is oil supply and rising food and commodity prices that come along with it. Malaysia’s main problem should not be race. It is the limited supply of energy sources and its associated food problem.

Malaysia is lucky to have oil, but this oil will run out in perhaps two decades (or sooner) if we do not do something about it. Petronas is still exporting oil and making money. If Petronas could tell Malaysia the amount of oil reserves that we have presently, it would be great for all of us so that we can plan for our future usage of oil. Oil reserves are limited. Three days ago, President Bush asked Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, the Saudis simply said, ‘no’. Oil is a national treasure and the oil-producing countries want to keep oil prices high as they know that oil supply is limited. They want to get higher revenues per barrel of oil now. Some say that proven oil reserves may last for another 40 years or so, if there are no new oil discoveries. Oil discoveries are an unknown and it is better to play it safe than to assume that there is lots of oil now untapped.

There is also another school of thought saying that oil can last for another 100 years, and the oil producing countries intentionally lower their stated oil reserves to keep oil prices high. Whether it is 40 years or 100 years, it is still too short. Just think of any activity on a certain day that we do not need to use oil – none. The world will be full of problems arising from the limited supply of oil and natural gas. The number one problem that goes along with oil problem is the rising food prices. It is great the Abdullah government is going to open more land to grow more food. This is to be applauded.

I also like Pakatan Rakyat’s commitment to transparency, good governance and zero corruption. I, however, do not agree with Anwar Ibrahim’s platform to further subsidise oil usage in Malaysia. In fact, I feel oil should be taxed not subsidised. We need to save oil and not use it like water. The poor and the lower-income groups in Malaysia should be helped when we remove the oil subsidies. The government should convene a commission to analyse how to help the poor when the subsidies are removed. I feel that there is little debate now in Parliament about the oil problem as many MPs are not well informed about this Number One problem facing humanity – the energy problem.

In fact, I feel that Petronas may want to drastically reduce its oil exports and keep it for future usage in Malaysia. Oil is going to be a very powerful economic weapon in the years ahead. It is na V ve to think that alternative energy sources like solar power can substitute oil. The current evidence is that solar power is very expensive and tools to harness solar power need raw metal commodities for manufacturing. Also mining metal commodities requires energy (from oil) and metal commodities are limited in supply too. If we have money, the universities and research institutions in Malaysia should do more research on solar power to harness this energy with lesser costs. There is hope and we better do it now than waking up one day later to see astronomical oil and food prices which are far much higher than what we are seeing today.

As an economist, I see the number one problem facing humanity should not be the championing of a certain race, whether it is the Malay race, Chinese race or Indian race. The number one problem is to uphold equality and the coming together of Malaysians to solve a major problem that will hit humanity hard in the years to come – the energy problem and its associated food problem.

If people still talk about racial politics and resources are not being channeled properl, then a far greater tsunami is waiting to happen with unparalleled fury - the energy problem and its associated food problems. Malaysia should prepare to solve this now than later when it will be too late.

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