An Update On Malaysia's Political Situation And What The Future Holds, by YAB Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang for Asia Society of Hong Kong. Or, Newton's Fantasy Laws Of Investing. Possibly also the only post where title may rival content, in length 😉
In Season 4 of The West Wing, the President of The United State's child has just been kidnapped. They fear the act of terrorists.
Staffer 1: You've been a good friend to (the President), Leo, but you have other responsibilities. The people .....need to know he's willing to sacrifice his own child's life for his country.
Staffer 2: Would you be?
Staffer 1: I wasn't stupid enough to run for President.
Many people arguably view politicians in general (so too investment bankers haha) with at least mild distrust, because in part of the heavy temptation in the job to be self-serving.
However, those who choose not to involve ourselves very much (like yours truly) because we "aren't stupid enough to run for President" are displaying selfishness too <shrugs> There be still a special place in the Divine Comedy, for the souls of the uncommitted. The choice of indecision is still a choice.
As a rather deliberate "katak-di-bawah-tempurung" (loosely, "frog-in-a-well") therefore, I often feel obliged to keep my big mouth shut about Malaysian politics. Decisions are made by those who show up, I once wrote, when a non-Malaysian friend brought me to a Women's Political Participation Summit at City University where Elisabeth Wong was speaking - and I conveniently rarely had.
Occasionally however, mountains come to Mohammad.
When the Asia Society of Hong Kong featured a presentation by Chief Minister of Penang YAB (The Right Honourable) Lim Guan Eng, I jumped at the opportunity to
make up for countless missed news reports in just this one hour hide behind a potted plant taking notes attend. Off their website, "Mr. Lim values clean leadership... ...the Penang State Government was able to achieve surpluses every year since 2008, reducing state debt by 95% and increasing state assets by 50%. Penang also became the top state in Malaysia in attracting investments and FDI in 2010 and 2011 as well as becoming the first state in Malaysian history to diminish poverty in 2013."
The highly regarded Chief Minister is introduced as "Having been to jail twice for being an outspoken politician."
You can Google his achievements, and the circumstances under which he went to jail. What you won't get off wiki however is being there, that evening.
Arriving towards the tail end of the cocktail reception, I spy a newly recognisable face. In a recent meeting at the JW Marriott Business Centre where I had the privilege of being a fly-on-the-wall, one of the meeting contributors had been clad in red shorts and flip flops, arguably the occupational prerogative of someone in a more creative line of work during a sweltering Hong Kong summer.
This evening, he's walked up a hill in the heat to the Asia Society building in full suit and tie - to sit in a packed auditorium when YAB Lim speaks.
(He didn't know I was going to do that, and neither did I - I pulled him up there when YAB finished speaking, after noticing the suit).. They took a selfie too, only he would text me later, "It didn't quite turn out -"
Every time a Penang-ite poses a question during the session, they identify themselves as such to YAB Lim. Most thank him for what he has done for the State. At one point he breaks off halfway, "Ay you all ah, better go home and vote ah..."
YAB Chief Minister Lim takes the audience through the economic and political situation in Malaysia as it is today. He talks about the sense of helplessness as the Ringgit plunges. The sense of anger and betrayal in "Harap pagar jaga padi, pagar makan padi." (The fence you hope will guard the paddy, instead eats the paddy.) He describes opposition splits as blessings in disguise. How the word "donation" is better replaced with "contribution," these days. He quotes prominent Malaysian writers, many of whom are Malay. He talks of transportation plans born out of desperation. He does not have all the answers, but offers a guarantee of being "clean".
During Q and A, someone poses the question many people in the room were probably eager to know the answer to after most recent developments that day, and he qualifies, "We don't know exactly what was asked when the press picked it up... but if necessary why not sit down and discuss, ...with the minister who sent me to prison... twice... If he's still Prime Minister I might be going in again, you know. But national welfare takes priority."
YAB Lim talks of how when he was an ex-convict, never in his wildest dreams did he think he could be Chief Minister of Penang.
"It is darkest just before dawn." He calls hope. I call also good potential entry point.
The market prices in to an investment what it already expects an investment to return. The obviously attractive buy is also an expensive one. "Newton's Law Of Structured Product Investments" for derivatives surely holds true of their vanilla underlying as well. (Like, if Newton invested, I bet he'd totally say that 😀 )
When the rockstars playdate in a variety of their friends' homes (because I feel the need to remind everyone I'm a mummy blog - we get to add details other articles may not, and beliefs, prejudices, what we hold important, is often laid bare in the choices we make when raising our children*), it's not uncommon for people to tell us they locked in their nest egg during gut-wrenching property market crashes of the SARS period. "We could never afford the same home with prices where they are today. But yeah back then when we bought, we were scared." It not being in the Wild, Wild West but instead middle-classed Hong Kong parents who had kids' tuition to pay, of course they were scared. Because Newton's Law Of No Free Lunch 🙂
Not too long ago, we bemoaned a Ringgit that was "too" strong. Not our current problem. Beli buatan Malaysia (buy Malaysian products) has become an all too true highlight of the "discount buffer" you also get from the cheaper Ringgit, when you buy Malaysian.
"Risk," as priced in to the return of an investment however, is as the market collectively sees it - the market, made up of traders, investors and speculators, who believe in the return they're going to get, for said market risk. Because Newton's Fantasy Third Law Of Investment Products says For Every Return There Is An "Equal" And Commensurate Return (:D)
Now, "everyone" gets access to about the same data for an investment. You have the Google, the Wiki, maybe even the Kidrex. But say one day you get to meet someone who attends work meetings at business centres of swanky hotels in red shorts and flip flops, yet puts on a suit and tie to sit in back when Chief Minister YAB Lim speaks. You watch hands go up, hear the Penang-ites in the audience identify themselves as such - proudly so, despite all that you read in the press today - they, who likely still have family, friends, investment assets, inheritances - thanking the Chief Minister for what he's done for Penang, before posing their questions.
It's no coincidence I drew a metaphor from The West Wing. Multi-award winning, with characters occasionally drawn from those of real life politicians, but with a deliberate idealism that some critics find unrealistic. Yet in 2006 President Obama's The Audacity of Hope spent 30 weeks on a New York Times Bestseller List. Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in your soul - sure, but it is also the wild card in your hand that inspires you to keep going until you can play it in a winning strategy.
It isn't very fashionable to be Malaysian over here, particularly of late - when you introduce yourself as "Malaysian", you might get a reaction along the lines of, "S-o.... That Plane..... That Minister.... The Other Minister........" (You know who are the best-informed and most unreserved askers of such questions? Hong Kong taxi drivers 😀 Though I had one of these questions on a most recent playdate as well. It was nice when a Korean friend retorted, "Y-eah we aren't too proud of That Ferry either," bless her.)
Certainly, there can be no excuse for any wrongdoing, particularly if you are the proverbial fence who has been entrusted with guarding the paddy. However, things are not seen equally across different countries either, it's the way the entire world is. Little kids - people - die every day in some developing nations for the most horrific outbreaks and lack of basic human living needs, while over in developed countries a single suspected case of mad cow may cause a huge panic and culling, and way more press.
Thing is, you cannot choose where you are born any more than you can choose who you are born to, or what you are born with or without. In the game of Life, we were meant to do the sincere best we can, with the hand we are dealt. In other words, BO PIAN (no choice) 😀 .
If you think you've started off in the game of Life a little "behind", you also try harder. Work harder. Therein lies a not-talked-about-enough benefit to not being born with a winning hand: When you are used to training while weighed down, one day you take the weights off and discover you can fly.
Soon, it will be Merdeka Day, our Malaysian Independence Day. This day of jubilee, something tells me you're about to meet the Malaysians that now live abroad, perhaps have done so for decades, even - who continue to retain citizenship - even as they fly higher.