A large crowd turned up at Hulu Kelang last night and listened intently as Anwar highlighted the growing gap between the top 20 per cent and the bottom 40 per cent.
But Anwar didn’t elaborate on the reasons behind the growing gap. Clearly, the gap between the rich and poor began to widen in the 1980s after the Mahathir administration adopted neoliberal Thatcherite policies especially privatisation and the reduction of tax rates for the rich. The gap continued to widen throughout the Mahathir administration (even during the period when Anwar himself was Finance Minister in the 1990s), right until recent years.
Mahathir now even reflects that he and Thatcher were almost similar in character. That reveals more than he is saying. The autocratic PM followed the ‘Iron Lady’s’ privatisation push with earnest, privatising many areas to cronies in sweetheart deals in a form of state-managed neoliberal capitalism. Like Thatcher, he curbed the trade unions too. Is it any wonder then that Mahathir is among the 2500 guests from more than 200 countries invited to Thatcher’s funeral and will be representing Malaysia? As Wisma Putra said: “”Tun Dr Mahathir, then Prime Minister of Malaysia, enjoyed a close friendship with the late Baroness Thatcher. Bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United Kingdom also strengthened during their time.”
Following the introduction of neoliberal economic policies including privatisation, the gap between the rich and poor has soared in both Malaysia and the UK as well as in many other countries that have followed similar policies. No surprise there.
But clearly, as you can sense from the video above, many ordinary people are feeling the stress and pressure posed by the prevailing neoliberal economic model, aggravated by rampant corruption, cronyism and rent-seeking.