Thursday, 31 May 2007

Language is a Skill

“It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business.”

- Michael Corleone, Godfather

From my posts, it is rather obvious that I am disheartened by the current state of the nation. I am getting more and more convinced that the country is in a crisis – not a short-term 1997/98 type of crisis, but a gradual and ultimately more damaging and pervasive crisis of norms and institutions that will lead our country to abject marginalisation in the ever competitive and fast moving global economy.

Back to the titular topic, I am utterly dismayed by
some of the issues that were raised regarding private sector employment practices. From the unanimous readers’ and editors’ opinions of our major newspapers (particularly this one), it is clear to me that narrow-minded and debilitating racism is a norm to Malaysians – in fact, we are encouraged to be racist, to view each other as ‘outsiders’ and that the economy is a zero sum kind of game – if ‘they’ win, ‘we’ lose – and that wealth of a nation is inherited, not created.

I digress.

Anyway, back to the narrower titular topic, it is accused that language-based employment requirement (fluency in Chinese/Mandarin) is a form of racist conspiracy plot by the private sector (which obviously reads Chinese businesses to these commentators) to ‘membolot kekayaan negara’ by preventing Bumiputera graduates from gaining rightful employment in the country. This is indeed a depressing assertion. If the accusation is accurate, as our Deputy PM claimed so some time ago, then I am utterly appalled by the degeneration of entrepreneurial acumen of players in the private sector in which racist motivation drives business decisions. More on this later.

If this assertion is inaccurate, then it truly reflects a sad state of affair in the mindset of Malaysians – narrow-minded, nihilistic, provincial and destructive. It takes a racist to see this in such a racist perspective.

Anyhoo, consider these mock scenarios:

Thayalan and Sons, Export and Import (M) Sdn. Bhd

Having operated for over a decade through export and import activities between India and Malaysia, Thayalan and Sons, a home-grown company, now is considering expansion of their business to China to tap the immense market of 1.3 billion population.

Sales managers and executives fluent in Mandarin are needed. Please apply.

How does the language requirement fit in in this scenario? If a Malaysian-Indian company requires staff who are fluent in Mandarin, based on their strategic business decision, would it still be considered a racist decision?

Mahmood Sports Apparels Sdn. Bhd.

With the rapid expansion of our business, CEO Encik Mahmood bin Ali had decided to set up its 100th branch in Pasir Pinji, Ipoh. Given the populace of that area are mostly Chinese, potential sales assistants fluent in conversational Cantonese and Mandarin are encouraged to apply. Please contact Encik Anwar Abdullah, Sales Manager, Pasir Pinji Branch.

How about this one? Still racist? In any case, if you change the names of the companies of the two examples to Chinese names, would you still consider the language requirements a racist conspiracy strategy?

Allen’s Classical Bookshop

Sales manager needed. Must be fluent in English and familiar with English Literature (preferably with a Bachelor degree in English Literature).

And this one, would it be considered to be discriminatory in nature? I mean, sheesh, what about all those non-Eng Lit grads? Allen must be a freaking discriminating prick for having to have such requirement. I bet it is part of an elaborate conspiracy scheme by Allen and other classical bookshop owners to systematically marginalise non-Eng Lit people. That is the sole purpose of them setting up bookstores. Let this be a clarion call for all of us (sans the evil Eng Lit graduates, of course)! We have been too ‘lembut’ for far too long! It is time for us to fight back and not let them ‘memijak kepala kita’!

V4U Publication Sdn Bhd

V4U, the latest sensational Malay magazine with all the latest news and hot gossips of the Malaysian entertainment scene is looking for experienced writers and editors to contribute to this thriving new magazine! Good command of Bahasa Melayu is a prerequisite.

Gosh, the above language requirement is obviously racist in nature! How about those poor Chinese, Indians, Kadazan and … oh wait, I forgot, basically every other races in the country has learned up Bahasa Melayu. I guess in this case, language is considered a skill and not a racist conspiracy plot by those heinous private sector companies.

Okay, back to a more sober mood.

The thing is, business decisions, be it regarding hiring, investment, expansion or marketing should be and are motivated by entrepreneurial considerations – profits, costs, efficiency and prospects for future growth. If business decisions are driven by other considerations like racist propaganda and sorts, in a competitive environment, the business will eventually fail. And I believe this reflects the true private sector conditions in Malaysia, be it multi-national corporations or home-grown Malaysian SMEs.

Furthermore, in true entrepreneurial spirit and from a dispassionate perspective, to have business policy that could irk and incur the wrath of the Bumiputeras is just plain stupid. The Malay population form the largest market segment of the country, and given the additional socio-political advantages, it makes perfect business sense to do the exact opposite. If you want to go global in selling consumer products, you do not go and make US or China your enemy.

Again, I reiterate, business decisions based on racially discriminating motivations will only result in abject failure in a true competitive environment. The only way for businesses and enterprises to survive despite of this is for them to be backed by the state, in a tangled rent-seeking web of inefficiency, wastage, corruption and decline. Racism is a cancer; a cancer that destroys entrepreneurial spirit, business innovation and national competitiveness – the very things needed for Malaysia to survive in the future global economy.



democratic junkie said...

Good post...

democratic junkie said...

UMNO politicians are spin doctors. They will go on and say that chinese companies are taking advantage of the language pre-requisite to deter malays from applying. Khairy Jamaluddin will tell you just that.

democratic junkie said...

"Why is this only happening to Malay graduates and not Chinese graduates? The reason is probably the Chinese graduates choose the right subjects so they are employable. We find that the Malay graduates, especially those from the Malay stream, can’t speak English at all. No matter how much value you put on a certificate, the fact remains that an employer wants somebody with whom he can communicate. The employer is not Malay, he is a foreigner. And if he’s not going to be able to communicate with you, he will not take you."-Dr.Mahathir