I would like to tell you a story about Bank Negara Malaysia and its discrepancy. Serious... and I really hope Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, his senior officers, the governor and her team read this and take whatever available actions to address it.
There was a Bumi company called Buloh Emas. I have seen some of its retail marts in Selangor, Kelantan and other states, about 15 of them, employing about 300 staffs.
What the company did was to buy consumer items from 600 small and medium-sized Bumi producers, from salted fish to banana crips and from rice to sugar, milk and flour. Business was good. They also bought this products from about 2,000 small suppliers, many of whom are single mothers and those of the low income group.
What the company did was encouraging. It sold this products at a much cheaper price, many of which were much lower than that offered by big supermarkets and hypermats in Malaysia. More than 200,000 'orang susah dan miskin' were buying from them.
However, the business were dealt with a blow last October. Bank Negara freeze their account. Why. Just because some people (I better call them competitors) lodged a report to the central bank, accusing Buloh Emas of illegally collecting deposits from its costumers.
And since then, the operation had slowed down. Few weeks ago, they had to cease operation as they could not afford to buy anything from the 600 SMIs. How to pay? It left them to no choice but to retrench more than half of its workers whom they owed at least 2 months in wages.
Yes, the company did collect 'membership' fee from the 600 SMIs, I think it was about RM15 one-off to enable them to join its ring of operation. If you multiply 15 by 500, it wont go that much but the ways the company ran the business were fascinating as they chalked goon turnover and pre-tax profit.
Their competitors were envious, of course. Why? Because Buloh Emas even took over some of their competitors ailing businesses. For record, the competitors are non-Bumi.
Now... if BNM calls it illegal, why did the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs issued a letter in August 2008, approving the business and said they did not require a special licence to operate, including for that RM15 membership (was it more, I dont know). The ministry was of the opinion that the company was doing just like any other big marts and companies which entice memberships for a small fee.
The representatives and lawyer of Buloh Emas went to BNM on many occassions only to be shot down by the officers. A lady who is one of the investigating officers in fact told the owner: "Kalau dulu you naik basikal, saya mahu tengok awak naik basikal semula!"
Such a skunk! However, it didnt end up there.
Based on her report, a senior officer who got the power and full authority to study the case and lift the freeze, did not do so. He only gave a big NO based on the unmarried lady officer. (I better not mention any names here). However, he gave the assurance that the company may continue to operate as long as it didnt engage any new members.
The matter was also brought to the AG office. An officer said the AG chamber only acted based on BNM reports and recommendation. Fine!
My point of contention here is, of you allow the company to continue its operation, how the hell are they going to pay the 600 SMIs when their money was put to freeze? How are they going to pay the employees and how are they gonna answer the plight of the single mothers and the poors?
Why did BNM take so long to investigate the accusation. Its entering its seventh month now. Previously, BNM was quick enough in concluding its investigation papers on a lot of similar cases.
If the company was really involved in collecting deposits illegally, why didnt you seal their offices like what the authority did in the past? Why in the first place you allowed them to resume operation without lifting the freeze on their funds? What logic was that?
I dont care much about the company but my heart is with the 600 SMIs, the 2,000 single mothers and the poors and about 200,000 customers who all this while had enjoyed cheap daily goods at the marts. Going by the current economic crisis, these people need all the cheap things to survive.
I was told that BNM officers were like GOD. Nobody can touch or question them. Whatever they say, rules and nobody can reverse that. Really?
What about a senior officer who approached Buloh Emas team that the case can be resolved with a condition. You know what laaaa!!! Its the usual thing, of course. So, means that there was NO CASE at all against Buloh Emas as the freeze on its funds can be lifted over a good deal.
What Buloh Emas needed actually was for BNM to release at lease some of its funds to enable it to resume business. If you allow them to continue, of course they need money to operate. Afterall, didnt your officer say that the matter can be 'kautim'?