Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bumi Equity – (don’t) Show me the money!

I have hesitated to comment on the recent hullabaloo over the discrepancy between the findings by ASLI and the EPU-reported figures on bumi corporate equity.

This is because my understanding of accounting issues is limited to what I have in my wallet (which unfortunately is not very much). Hence, I was very happy to come across the equivalent of a Dummies’ Guide at Screenshots which has an explanation for the difference between market and par values that anyone can understand.

This issue is clearly quite divisive. ASLI’s figures suggest that bumis own nearly half of Msian equity. If this is true, what need is there for NEP or affirmative action?

The Abdullah administration will either have to come up with a really convincing explanation (even if the EPU’s methodology was probably inherited from the previous administration), or apologize and start making some serious changes and concessions.

More importantly, however, does that mean that there are no poor Malays in Malaysia? Obviously not.

There are not only poor Malays, but also poor Chinese and poor Indians. Whether bumis own 20% of 45% of equity is not important to them (or me). Do we really care whether the towkay sitting behind the tinted windows of that S-class outside Bukit Bintang is Malay, Chinese or Indian.

What is important is that all our children have ample educational opportunities, and that each of us earns a fair living wage. Social infrastructure must also be put in place to ensure that no one goes hungry or in need of medical aid. It is critical that we bring pressure to bear on our Government to ensure that such a framework exists.

Having them be upfront about other things (like market and par values) would be a nice plus, but really, it is not that important.