Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dr M on the pot calling the kettle black

Those who take the moral high ground and criticise influence peddling in Malaysia and other developing countries should have a good look at themselves, said former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Pots, he noted, should not sneer at the blackness of the kettle.

In his latest blog posting, Mahathir, who had never hidden his disdain for “meddling” western powers, commented on a news report, which he found amusing, about ex-Labour ministers in the United Kingdom being suspended because they offered lobbying service for cash.

“They can offer this because they know whom to lobby,” he said.

He also quoted an excerpt from the report, which read: “Byers, a former transport minister, boasted to the undercover journalist he had made a secret deal with Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis over the termination of a rail franchise contract."

“Everyone denied, of course,” Mahathir added.

Following this, the former premier, armed with a lethal dose of sarcasm, trained his guns on the United States.
“But in America, the greatest democracy in the history of mankind, congressional and Senate lobbyists actually set up lobbying firms.

“Most of the firms' owners had been holding high positions in the previous governments and they know the staff and the members of the current government well,” he said.

“They openly offer lobbying service for a fee. If you don't have the money, that is too bad. The moneyed ones can actually cause motions to be put before the congress which could be passed.

“In fact, government policies in America have been shaped by the rich in Wall Street. I will not say more,” he added.

It's who you know, not what you know

Evaluating bids

In Malaysia, Mahathir conceded that there is some degree of truth to that often-mentioned phrase -- it is who you know rather than what you know that wins you contracts.

“One has to know the background of the bidder before deciding to give the award. If awards are made entirely on the basis of the offer, mistakes can be made also.

“This is because the bidder can get professionals and others to make 'cannot be refused' offers, which in the end would prove impossible to carry out,” he explained.

Mahathir said it is true that those tasked with evaluating bids would tend to favour known performers rather than totally unknown strangers.

“The more they know about the bidders the more would their decisions be influenced. It is indeed 'whom' you know and not 'what' you know.

“Decision-makers cannot avoid being lobbied directly or indirectly. In any case, no matter who succeeds, there will be unhappiness on the part of the others who fail. And of course the accusation would be made that they fail because they did not know the right people,” he added.

However, Mahathir said, if those who failed had a chance to pull strings and influence decision- makers they would not hesitate to do so.

“That they don't like it when others get does not mean they won't like it if they get. As for the critical observers, given the opportunity they would do it too.

“That is why contracts given by a previous government would be nullified by an opposition government, so the contractors they know would benefit,” he added.

A different view

Mahathir said that people should know that in the private sector "whom you know" is even more decisive than in the government sector.

“If we look at the private construction industry, which is bigger than in the government sector, if you don't know the right people, you would not get a contract, not even a small supply contract.

“To succeed in the private sector, you must not only know what but most certainly you must know whom,” he added.

However, Mahathir noted that when the “whom you know as opposed to what you know” formula is practised in Malaysia, foreigners have a different view.

“I have been asked by foreign gentlemen why is this so common in Malaysia and other developing countries.

Isn't this wrong? Shouldn't the best bid win? Whom you know should not influence decisions,” he said.

by FMT

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