Passion Versus Privilege

Another article that caught my eye last week was the story of how Loi Tuan Ee, who grew up in Sitiawan, Perak, gave up a high-paying job in 2008 to pursue his passion for agriculture and dairy farming.  Today, his company – The Holstein Milk Company – supplies more than half of the fresh milk in the country, reducing Malaysia’s dependence on imported dairy produce.

Needless to say, it took a great deal of sacrifice, risk and hard work to succeed. Along the way, Khazanah Nasional, the strategic investment arm of the government, was impressed enough to take up a 30% share of his company and provide him with much-needed capital to further expand his business.  What a success story! We can all take pride in his achievements.

The success of the Holstein Milk Company, of course, invites comparison with another venture – the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) – that was set up in 2011 with a RM250 million government loan. It ended up a total fiasco with allegations of corruption, nepotism and breach of trust. The chairman of the company, the husband of a senior politician from the ruling party, was charged with criminal breach of trust but was later acquitted after the prosecution decided to drop the charges against him.

Today, nothing remains of the grandiose venture, part of the “national beef valley” project which was intended to help the nation achieve self-sufficiency in beef. It is not even clear whether the government was able to recover the full amount of the loan.

The government should draw the appropriate lessons from these two stories. Instead of dishing out easy money to well-connected cronies with little experience, it should reward the hard work, sacrifice and entrepreneurship of men like Loi. Kudos to Khazanah Nasional for looking past Loi’s ethnicity to his entrepreneurial skills. If we want to surge ahead, the government needs to stop funding freeloaders and start respecting and rewarding real entrepreneurship irrespective of race. 

Back to the Holstein Milk Company; I hope its success will not lead the political cronies who now infest our nation like a plague of flies to pressure Loi to hand over a 51% stake of his company. Successful businessmen can never be too careful these days. 

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | Monday, 11th October 2021]

Published by Dennis Ignatius

Passionate Malaysian | Former Ambassador and career diplomat | Political affairs columnist | Human rights and international affairs commentator

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