Thinking Allowed

Thinking Allowed: The Rise and Fall of Ipoh

By Mariam Mokhtar

Multatuli, who comes from a village in Perak, wants to know what the business community and the captains of industry, have done for Ipoh? Do they even care about the interests of the community they live in or just their own business interests? Ipoh has dropped from one of the richest states to the second poorest in Semenanjung.

Multatuli says: “It’s terribly depressing when one reads headlines like Perak, the second poorest state next to Kelantan. Google states that our GDP is about one third that of KL.

What has happened to the richest town and state in Malaya? It was the Kinta Valley that financed much of the infrastructure of Malaya. There were more Rolls Royces per capita in Ipoh than any other place. The first car in Malaya was bought by an Ipoh person.

We all know the tin market fell through the floor. But that is not the whole story.

Other places faced the same in different ways yet have prospered. Some countries do not have any natural resources yet they thrive – we only have to look at Japan and “the little red dot” south of our border.

Our parlous state is due to more than just tin’s decline.

It is mismanagement; lack of vision; lack of leadership; creeping religious extremism; racial politics which means we are not using the best talents we have.

The above are subjects that have been written ad nauseam and I have no wish to add to the nausea.

Ipoh’s Business Community/Captains of Industry

I pose the question particularly to the Business Community/Captains of Industry – What have you done for Ipoh?

Unlike you or I – they have great influence as providers of jobs and revenue in the state. Their access to government is much better than the man on the street’s that’s for sure. The MB or Mayor is more likely to give time to them while you and I will be fobbed off.

Our businessmen are in touch with the government I am sure but only on what affects their industry. They will speak out if any decision affects them adversely. Nothing wrong with looking after their own interest but what about the interests of the community they live in?

More than their tangible contributions (Yau Tet Shin donated the People’s Park to Ipoh; the Chinese towkays built the Perak Chinese Maternity Hospital, which is not just for the Chinese, but everyone), is their involvement with the town. They took an active interest in the direction the town was taking; they shared their vision of Ipoh with those in power. In short, they used their influence for the good of Ipoh – not just for their own personal gains.

Our present tycoons, many of whom are far richer than the old “towkays”; yet do not seem to share the same “love” for their town.

Whatever influence they have with the politicians and government seem to have been used only to serve themselves.

We have the much publicised RM50 million donation to build a hostel in Penang by an Ipoh tycoon which begs the question of why not Ipoh where he lives?

Yes, we have the odd donation here and there but nothing which deals with the town – its future; its makeup; to define what Ipoh is.

Our business community should lead in how they see Ipoh developing in the arts and culture; in community amenities; parks; in heritage conservation; on environmental issues. They should be working with the government on how to bring in investments and creating jobs so that our young can remain.

Our Business Leaders Failed Ipoh

There is so much our business leaders can do for Ipoh and Perak but have not.

I am not suggesting that they should get involved in party politics, but they should certainly be involved in politics in general (like every citizen) because politics touches every aspect of our lives.

We should have a say in how our state is run – not just every five years; on how Ipoh develops – sensitively and imaginatively; preserving our built heritage as well as our hills and river. Our business leaders must look beyond their own particular interests and spend a little of their political capital to benefit the town.

An Ipohmali with a good track record should be our mayor. And a good business leader will have the background to take Ipoh forward.

The PH Government should walk the talk (even though it has reneged on the Local Government Elections promise) by appointing someone from among the good folk of Ipoh to be Mayor. Race or religion must not be an issue in selecting this person as it is for the good of everyone that Ipoh and Perak rise like the Phoenix.

Appointed bureaucrats just don’t cut the mustard – look where we are! It’s time for real change not just talk and our businessmen have a role to play.”

Source:  Rebuilding Malaysia or

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