COMMENT A few months before the end of last year, I wrote on the state of the economy in an article chiefly directed at market investors and the business community.
In my article I touched on the Chinese investment wave and noted that this was a most important partnership emerging between Malaysia and China and would boost our nation's economic fortunes. I followed up this with another on 'The China X Factor in Malaysia's Future'.
In my second article, I noted that the Chinese are investing here for their own benefit and not out of charity. I wrote:
“Let’s make no mistake. This is not about PM Najib’s, Malaysia’s or Malaysian Chinese’s interests that China is making these deals. China will be the X factor in Malaysia’s development in any transformation programme for our nation. If we want to make it a win-win deal, we have to work to pursue our national advantage.”
I had also written:
“The most important thing we can learn from the Chinese example, is that we have to free the creative enterprise and spirit of the people, especially the young.
“No freebies - just hard work, a no-nonsense, fair and competent government, and incorruptibility, which was high on the governance agenda, has made China the power to respect throughout the world and in Malaysia.
“But there is also a lot wrong in China now that mainland Chinese are trying to eradicate. Let us learn from that, too.”
I had hoped that our leaders would take my advice in the right spirit.
Imagine my shock then to see that Dr Mahathir Mohamad has chosen to focus on the subject of Chinese investment and to use it as a political football in his effort to bring down the Najib government.
But I should not be surprised as Mahathir is a political animal par excellence. Since he has not been able to topple Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on the 1MDB and personal donation issues, he has to find another issue. And the Chinese investment in Johor is a ready-made one for political mischief and trouble making.
Here, I must express my strong agreement with the Sultan of Johor, who has rightly, in my opinion, condemned Mahathir for going too far in twisting the issue.
Firstly, the land being sold to Chinese investors is not existing land or land that is being taken away from existing Johorean residents.
It is reclaimed land. Even if it is existing land it is obvious that vacant land will remain vacant, unused and of little or of no value if no one is prepared to spend money to develop it. This is the situation with much of Malay reserve land, which partially accounts for the sorry state of the Malay economy.
Secondly, there are positive multiplier effects from the sale of land to foreigners. No sensible leader from any country in the world - except perhaps North Korea - will object to foreigners buying up property and taking up residence.