ALTHOUGH the rakyat have had three prime ministers in the past three years, power in the country and the way it is governed is concentrated in the hands of a small group of elites.
The general public may find the idea far-fetched or absurd.
This small group is made up of the leader of the largest political party in the country and a handful of council members and close advisers, big business owners, directors and high-ranking officers of the armed forces.
They work and play together, work and marry into each other’s families. Their common experiences have given them shared perspectives in terms of economics and politics.
Just look at the top echelons of leadership in the country since 1981. Leadership positions hold the power to direct the programs and activities of major political, economic, legal, educational, cultural, scientific, and civic institutions. Occupants of these offices control half of the country’s industrial, communications, transport and banking assets, and two-thirds of all insurance assets.
In addition, they direct substantial resources from government trust funds and government related entities whether listed or unlisted in Bursa Malaysia.
They hold the most influential positions in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the federal government and control the mass media.
At the top of this small group, another small elite group makes all the most important decisions for everyone below.
A relatively small intermediate level consists of individuals normally thought of when referring to senators, MPs, MPs, mayors, party leaders, etc.
The rakyat sits below. It is the average men and women of the country who are powerless to hold the highest levels to account.
In short, a small group of people decide matters of life and death for the nation, leaving relatively minor matters to be handled at the middle level and almost nothing for the rakyat to decide for themselves.
It is indeed a bleak picture.
Many of the members of this group have enjoyed a head start in life by being born into prominent families. Many have tried but rarely succeeded in being co-opted into this small group.
This small group of elites draws its strength from controlling the highest positions in politics and business and from shared values and beliefs.
They hold positions of command in society. These positions give their holders enormous authority not only over government institutions, but also over financial, educational, social, civic and cultural institutions.
Decisions made on the boards of large corporations and banks affect inflation and employment rates. The influence of the CEOs of Tenaga Nasional, Telekom, Maybank, CIMB, for example, sometimes rivals that of the ministers of international trade or internal trade.
As the government continues to play a more paternalistic role in the governance of the country, whether regulating and taxing companies that have enjoyed windfall profits at the expense of their public shareholders, or pushing for a ban tobacco for young people born after 2005, corporate institutions play an important role in the execution of government tenders.
Conversely, industries now rely heavily on federal support, grants, protection and loans to ensure the success of their businesses.
So even if business and politicians never stop taunting each other, the fact remains that they have become so close that they prosper much more together than apart.
At the top of the pyramid, this elite group makes all the decisions. Once the policy has been formulated at the top, it is reduced to the public.
The middle level of government is primarily concerned with how best to implement these policies. It’s a colorful and loud group that attracts the attention of the press. But for most of his activities, those in the middle tier are driven by rather selfish and parochial interests, using all sorts of gimmicks to promote themselves.
As a substantial portion of the rakyat become increasingly alienated from politics, coupled with apathy and disinterest, as can be seen in their declining turnout in recent state elections, all of this only serves to strengthen the influence and control of this small group over the country. It is no surprise that these elites will continue to control and rule this nation for years to come, regardless of who is elected to be the government of the day.
And the rakyat must continue their symbolic activity – going to the polls every four to five years.
Through their positions, this minority group has unprecedented authority to make decisions of national and international importance.
An important belief of this small group seems to be that the primary responsibility of government is to maintain a favorable climate for business activities. Other responsibilities, such as social welfare and care for the environment, are secondary to this task. – June 16, 2022.
*FLK reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the author or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. The article may be edited for brevity and clarity.