Bumi equity in foreign eateries: another blow to Malaysia's image

Press Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Friday): Raja Ismail Raja Mohamad, Director General of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry confirmed yesterday that all eateries wholly-owned by foreigners will now be required to have a minimum paid up capital of RM1 million with 30 percent Bumiputera equity (NST, March 24, 2005).

The new guidelines also require the compliance of existing eateries and restaurants.

Failure to comply with this new requirement will result in non-renewal of business operating licenses and work permits for expatriate staff, including the foreign proprietors themselves.

Such move is unthinkable in the age of globalization, at a time when the country is fighting hard to survive as a player in world trade and industry.

Malaysia will become a laughing stock in the eyes of foreign investors and the move certainly would not help to arrest the exodus of factories and dwindling foreign investments in recent years.

Many factories were closed down in Bukit Raja, Petaling Jaya, Penang, Shah Alam, Klang and other free trade zones in the country. Do our policymakers know the actual reasons behind the exodus of Motorola, Walls Ice-creams, Breeze, Philips and many other big brands?

Coming back to the 30% Bumiputera equity requirement, what would happen to those eateries and restaurants selling non-halal food and liquor? How do they get Bumi partners?

If the move is said to aim at protecting the local industry, why then the equity requirement was strictly confined to Bumiputeras?  

What has happened to the promise of taking away the walking sticks or clutches so that Malaysians can proudly walk with our own feet?

Must we continue to hold on to the clutches and never be able to stand up with our own strength in pride and dignity?

The fact that Malaysia has a great variety of food and cuisines has been always our pride and advantage. Many foreign tourists and travellers love to visit Malaysia largely because they like the diversity of culture in this country, where food is certainly one of the main attractions. What do we benefit from curbing the growth of foreign eateries and restaurants (which is a plus to our varieties of food) in our country?

We spend millions of ringgit in advertisements and promotions every year to sell Malaysia through Tourism Malaysia. We claim Malaysia as ‘Truly Asia’. All these efforts will go down to the drains if such insensible, illogical and unreasonable move be allowed to implement here.

Would you imagine our neighboring countries like Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia also impose such a crazy ruling in their countries?

Is there another better way to kill the spirit of free enterprise, which is the lifeline of modern day economy?

Let’s pray for senses to return to the heads of the Cabinet Ministers.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief