Saturday, May 26, 2018

A response to Mr Mukherjee of Bloomberg Business News by Pete Teo

From Pete Teo:

Dear financial journalists,

If you’ve been here a while and know the difference between crispy chicken rendang and its proper form, my apologies - please skip this post. For those who sit in offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing or London panic googling Malaysia, please read on...

The events that led up to and since the recent Malaysian general elections have few parallels in history. A kleptocracy was peacefully voted out of power against all odds. Malaysians overcame electoral fraud, restricted media, abuse of power, murders, etc to get here. It isn’t possible without fortitude. 

So this is the first thing to understand, i.e., Malaysians are angry and motivated. An 82% voter turnout on a weekday shows this. We’ve been outraged and are now motivated by the opportunity to rebuild. We understand the historic importance of this moment for our children. 

The government we voted in this time are equally determined. These are no ordinary politicians like those you’re likely used to. Most have devoted their lives to reform. Many have been persecuted and jailed. Some are supremely educated and skilled. All have a point to prove. 

This coming together of a country determined to reform and a government equally motivated to lead that reform is a powerful force. Naturally, there will be mistakes and debates along the way. But to neglect the current zeitgeist in what you write would be extremely crap journalism. 

For instance, a certain Mr Mukherjee of Bloomberg Business News wrote rather condescendingly that the new Finance Minister ought to be “tactful” when revealing the financial mess that 1MDB has bequeathed us for fear of spooking hot money. This is rubbish of the highest degree. 

Leaving aside the nonsense that hot money should take precedence over administrative transparency, it completely ignores the zeitgeist of the country - i.e. the need and willingness of Malaysians to know the truth and if required make sacrifices to set their country right again 

I personally find this insulting and lazy. It is a point of view borne out of a bubbled existence that sees the stock market as more important than real lives and communities. It typifies the tail-wag-dog logic of the mega-greedy that facilitated 1MDB in the first place. 

The truth is - notwithstanding Mr Mukherjee’s delicate sensibilities - we frankly don’t care about the short term fluctuations of the stock market. We worry about corruption, education, power abuse, communal relations - issues pivotal to the long term health of our home. 

So, if we inadvertently put a dent in your bank book in the course of correcting decades of administrative mismanagement, that’s just too bad. It’s not as if you’d shed a tear if this country went down the drain, as she almost did under the old corruptly compliant regime. 

I am not saying we don’t need your help. We do. For Malaysia to thrive we need foreign investments. But we are not stupid enough to confuse hot money with real investments that provide jobs, training, income and equitable wealth creation. With respect, neither should you. 

So please in your writings write in context of our attempt at rebirth. You might look at it as a spring clean, after which we might offer investors and speculators a destination not defined by corruption, abuse and mismanagement. It’d be a win-win situation, believe me. 

In the interim, should you lose a few bob betting in a fluctuating stock market, put it down to bad timing or misfortunate or stupidity. Try not to blame our newfound administrative transparency. It’s a good thing. Our lives are more important than your index points. Truly.