Dr Mahathir Mohamad has alleged that government-linked companies have put the Malays out of business instead of helping them.
In an interview with FMT, the former prime minister said the GLCs, which blossomed during his first stint at the helm of the country, were initially established to help poor Malays who were incapable of taking up shares in business.
He said Malays would borrow money, buy shares and sell them off to settle their debts, and he saw this as being against any plan to reduce the income disparity between them and the other races.
It was to prevent them from selling off their shares in the market that the government set up GLCs to buy the shares, he said.
However, he added, these GLCs veered from their original purpose when they began to set up companies that competed against each other and with others.
Mahathir, who three years ago lamented that GLCs had become “monsters”, said these outfits had gone into business in a big way by taking advantage of their Malay privileges.
“They are supposed to help the Malays, but they use the privileges to keep the Malays out of business.”
He said GLCs could be put back on track if politicians, especially those without any background in business, were removed from them.
He said this was what the Pakatan Harapan administration did during its 22 months in power. “But now all the professionals we appointed have been sacked and the politicians have come back, and it has become bad again.”
Mahathir also said meritocracy might not help reduce the disparity among the races, adding that it could in fact widen the gap.
He said Malays did not have the skills necessary for them to compete with the Chinese, who “have been in business for thousands of years” and could compete with the Europeans.
The Malays must be given a handicap, he said. “It’s like playing golf. You have to give a handicap. Otherwise, the weak player will never win.”
If everything was based solely on merit, he added, those with skills would keep going ahead and those without would continue to be left behind.
“The disparities will be very bad, very wide. When that happens, there will be conflict.” – FMT