How the Household Income became an enduring Myth used to design economic policies and ensure Umno’s dominance
Minister Abdul Wahid Omar: Economics man? Or just another Umno idiot?
‘Gov’t: Chinese and bumiputera income gap the largest’. Consider that headline (in italics) which was culled from a 2014 statistical survey then repeated by some government mouthpiece. It screams racism and Umno politics (in Malaysiakini where it was published, it attracts the most readers, ahead of the Welsh ‘bumi’ named Petra Kamarudin).
The racism is, of course, a given in Malaysia.
But it’s the politics that sticks in the throat because, in Chinese versus bumi incomes that’s used perennially to justify the NEP and variants of it after that, it adds to the edifice of an Umno government indispensable to Malay interests. To which is implied in the statistic: it’s not that the government didn’t do anything for the Malays, it’s just the bloody Chinese; they keep getting richer. (Now wait for Ahirudin Attan and Helen Ang to troll our their usual bile about the rich, greedy Chinese amassing all the wealth of Malaysia.)
Never mind that a piece of economic stats is used for political goals, here is the other problem, it is not even correct. Few question it for this reason only: the math in the economics is infallible. But try unpacking the statistics then look at each piece alone and individually. These are given in points A and B, which says the following:
A) Household income per month recorded in 2014, in the following order (and note, this is ringgit income not wages):
- Chinese: 7,656
- National average: 5,900
- Bumi: 5,548
B) Average household size (i.e. number of persons per household, here in pdf file link):
- Chinese: 3.5?
- National: 4.2
- Malay: 4.5?
Those question marks arose because the government, conveniently, do no use Malays as a statistically group nor does it publish household size across race. But these problems are easily remedied.
Where states have large Chinese population their household sizes are always smaller than the national average, Kuala Lumpur 3.7, Penang 3.8, Selangor 3.9. Where states are overwhelmingly Malays, the household sizes are always larger than the national average, hence Kelantan is 4.8, Trengganu is 4.6. In the largest ‘bumi’ states with many natives, the Sabah and Sarawak household sizes (5.1, 4.4 respectively) are, predictably, larger than Malays and the national average.
In short, Natives have more persons per household (5.0?) than Malays (4.5?) than Chinese (3.5?), in that top-down order.
Bear in mind those numbers because Abdul Wahid Omar, a PMO minister, didn’t just regurgitate those statistics individually, he has lumped them together then gave them a deep massage — without qualifications.
- The first comparison. It is always Chinese versus Bumis and never, for example, Indians versus Bumis or Kadazan versus Malay. The bumi is not an ethnic group. It is a political class, an Umno invention, because throw in the natives, especially those Orang Asli, Najib Razak can even claim to be most oppressed, most deprived, the poorest person there is on earth because he is bumi. If political class comparison is intended, then rightfully it should be non-bumis versus bumis. After which, what do you think will happen to the income ‘gap’ numbers between them?
- The second comparison contain three ingredients, race, households, and income. In throwing together those elements, it becomes easy for Wahid, hence Umno, to conclude: see the Malays are still poorer than the Chinese. This will even seem true, only because the lie in it (from the first comparison) is so well camouflaged.
That second comparison can be made factually or empirically true on two counts: (a) if a Malay household is used, and (b) that household is identical in size to a Chinese. To say it the way Abdul Wahid did is like saying that the same loaf of bread cut up for five persons in a Malay family, each Malay will get less, while cut four ways in a Chinese household, each Chinese get more.
So then, if is true that a Malay household earn 38 percent less than the Chinese, then it is only because of the fact Malays have more children than the Chinese. Consequently more Chinese per household are in the labor force than a Malay family. The knock-on result is that two persons bringing money home for a family of four is better off than one person feeding five mouths, himself included.
All that omits another fact: many Chinese incomes are not derived in Malaysia but outside it, Singapore being the most obvious. To see the importance of this, consider another nugget of statistics, C, and tie that up to D as outlined below:
- C) Average national income per person per month: 2,052 ringgit, in 2013.
- D) Approximate average number of income earners per household: 1.8 persons
Malaysia has 7 million households. Almost two thirds of that are nucleus households, which is to say, father, mother and kids; no grannies, no extended family (this is 20 percent of total households). For every four Chinese in a family, two adults would bring in about 4,100 ringgit; a Malay couple with three dependents bring in also 4,100.
Go back now to the household income measure. For a bumi household, 5,550 would be about close to the Malay couple, after factoring out the even lower Native incomes. But not the Chinese; there is a surplus of about 3,000 so where did that come from if not from outside the country?
Here is the other implication: Malaysia’s NEP has broken up Chinese families on an unprecedented scale, driving wage earners out of the country, 1 million today resident abroad.
In the eighties and nineties, Umno’s attempt to breed more Malays in order to tilt their population share even more considerably has this disastrous consequence: a very young Malay population, too many mouths and not enough money to go round and then the Red Shirts come in. Add to them, arseholes like Ahi Attan and Helen Ang.
One can think of no government anywhere in the world so utterly irresponsible as to impoverish an entire (Malay) population in this way. It adds up to making one of the most scandalous governments in this planet, and it is called Umno.
And the one who made it all possible: Mahathir Mohamad.