Feeling Poorer On Malaysian Independence Day – OpEd


Today, on Aug 31, Malaysia celebrates its independence from the British Empire which was granted in 1957. As the years pass by, the celebrations are becoming more muted and sterile. 

Now, if you are familiar with my writings, no nation – with the arguable exception of India – can actually hope to attain independence from the British Empire. It just does not happen. Furthermore, “independence” in the British Imperial context does not translate to “national sovereignty”. Instead, independence effectively means handing the baton of governance from foreign to local managers. The primary “stakeholders” however remain hidden and irremovable. This is a reason why an anachronism called the British Commonwealth still functions, despite offering zero benefits to citizens across a quarter of the earth’s landmass – a scattered area once officially colonised by Britain. 

The British Commonwealth is a collection of former colonies who are still yoked to the British crown. Things can get a little tricky when a nation decides to exit this larcenous den. Ireland (1948) and Zimbabwe (2003) are the only states to have exited from the Commonwealth entirely. The Irish had to part with its northern enclave which subsequently became embroiled in periodic Catholic-Protestant bloodbaths while Zimbabwe was reduced to a basket case. 

But who are the primary stakeholders alluded to here? I would hazard a guess that it is the global financial cartel centred in, and represented by, the ancient City of London Corporation which is often erroneously synonymized with Greater London.  

To keep a very long and winding story short, this is the Corporation behind nearly all major tax havens worldwide. No one knows how much money has been parked in these havens. I have read reports mentioning cumulative deposits worth up to $90 trillion. That is worth nearly the global GDP for 2022. 

Of course, major search engines would consign all incriminating links reporting on this grand theft to the black hole of cyberspace. There was a time when Swiss banks offered a more lucrative alternative to the British financial racket but they were gradually muscled out thanks to a concerted global agitprop campaign. The Corporation’s financial racket is untouchable. For example, while India seeks the repatriation of “black money” worth $1.4 trillion from Swiss banks, not much traction has been reported of funds stashed in British tax havens. Attempting that may result in incalculable repercussions. Therefore, the looting of India may continue, much like it did during the colonial era. 

According to economic historian Utsa Patnaik, the British colonial regime had looted nearly $45 trillion from India between 1765 and 1938. The amount is 15 times the annual GDP of the UK today. 

But when it comes to illicit financial outflows, however, the most eye-popping exhibit happens to be Malaysia. According to a 2014 Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report titled Illicit Financial Flows from Developing Countries: 2003-2012, “China leads the world over the 10-year period with US$1.25 trillion in illicit outflows, followed by Russia, Mexico, India, and Malaysia.

Now, how did Malaysia end up in this ignominious club? Russia, Mexico, China and India are geographic giants with vast populations. The RIC (Russia, India and China) nations are also regional superpowers with a combined population of nearly 2.5 billion people. They have major industries, hordes of skilled personnel and vast internal markets. These colossuses can somewhat withstand the brunt of massive capital outflows. 

Malaysia, on the other hand, is a small nation with a population of 30-odd million in 2014 (when the GFI report was compiled). Yet, it registered illicit capital outflows worth US$48.93 billion during the 10-year study period. How was this money generated in the first place? 

While there are ongoing discussions on where laundered Indian money is deposited, there are hardly any such discussions in Malaysia. Instead, local politicians routinely engage in childish tantrums which transcend all known boundaries of juvenility. They may have found a scapegoat in former prime minister Najib Razak whose 1MDB shenanigans had landed him in jail but the larger question (and amount) of money laundered out of Malaysia remains unanswered. Unsurprisingly, the British media and its lackey affiliates wasted no time in seizing and guiding the global 1MDB narrative. Was Najib unknowingly standing in the way of the Corporation’s nefarious designs in the region? One can only speculate as “investigative journalism” constitutes an oxymoron in Malaysia. 

In the meantime, Malaysian politicians continue to divide and conquer the hoi polloi with their petty and absurd hissy fits – in classic colonial fashion. They have learnt well from their (erstwhile?) British masters. Prices of basic necessities are rising; the media remains an adjunct of British neo-imperialism; and the less said about our pathetic “intellectuals” the better. In fact, the British continue to play a significant role in determining who or what constitutes an “intellectual” here. There is no room for big ideas, merit or ground-breaking innovations here. These are veritable anathemas. 

And this is the reason why Malaysia’s perennial brain drain is a far more worrying trend than its regular capital outflows. Nations can survive massive hits to their financial banks but not so when it comes to brain banks. 

Mathew Maavak

Dr. Mathew Maavak's research interests include systems science, global risks, geopolitics, foresight and governance. Follow him on Twitter @MathewMaavak or read his latest articles at https://drmathewmaavak.substack.com

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