Who’s your Daddy? Part 2
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — While crime is top of mind among most Malaysians, talk of who’s rich and how they got there are the topics du jour. People are turning to crime because of the worsening economy, rising cost of living, and yet there’s a flashy crowd in KL. Who on earth are they?
In a multi million-ringgit apartment, where access requires a security guard to escort you to a lift, which stops right on the floor of, and faces your destination, a family rests after a hearty lunch. The matriarch is having tea and being taken care of by a nurse, while her daughters recline on plush sofas. They are familiar faces in society pages, and are acknowledged as old money.
The appointment is to discuss the new rich, which they find very fascinating. This new generation is different from the new rich of before.
“They tend to be Malay. Not saying that Malays can’t be rich, we are all Malay too, but they’re different. When I was younger, there were the new rich too. Every generation, there’s a new rich but the last five years, this… group is…” observed the doyenne and designated speaker for the family.
“They are crass,” her sister interjected.
“They are crazy.”
Stories of how Chopard bracelets are given to toddlers as young as five are told in shocked tones. Seven-year-old girls are given Chanel handbags by their mothers “for fun.”
“I don’t deny I lead a privileged life, but I never spoiled my children like that. My daughter borrowed my clothes and handbags until she was old enough to buy her own. On occasion, my husband and I bought her nice things but we never indulged. Now that she’s married, it’s her husband’s problem-lah!”
They shook their heads.
“For example, let’s look at ministers’ wives. Everyone knows how much ministers make. So you tell me how do the wives afford all the jewellery and bags? Where do they get the money from? We are wondering also! Now, we’re in business and we can’t spend the way they do! Do you know how much an Hermès bag costs? I don’t understand why people are not questioning this more. Yes, I know they have fringe benefits, but I have never seen a poor politician.”
As a frequent flyer, she has observed many of the young and new rich flying First Class, and she wondered how their parents could pay for the tickets.
“You don’t see this so much among the Chinese and Indians. The Chinese, you know-lah, they are rich and it’s generational wealth. The Indians who are rich, are discreet. It’s the Malays who are flashy,” she said. “But you know, the money is not going to last long. Me, I feel sorry for these young people. Maybe that’s why they’re spending money. It’s not going to last forever.”
“We call them the proxy generation. Kids who are the inheritors of concession wealth,” says a friend who has dealt with them many times for work. As someone who works in retail, she has seen the tantrums, backbiting, and rise and rise of the new rich.
She points out. “These kids... parents got a huge and permanent government contract. Money will last them forever! Because of tax evasion and what have you, they spend the money on the children. How do you think these kids get to sit front row at Balmain? So they go and come back, and open up boutiques. And you’re right. They’re very different from the offspring of the old rich.”
“Well, if you look at the girls, they all look the SAME. They shop at the same place, throw the same type of parties, they are such productions! They have the same hair and make-up. They’re fashionable but they’re also… very Malay. Unlike their nemesis — the uber old-rich-young who have personalities and are very international in their ways and outlook.”
Do the young men look the same too?
“Oh definitely, darling.”
And for all the money these kids have, she observes, “How come these kids studied locally and not overseas?”
But they are well-mannered and nice, yes?
“Huh. They’re pretty. But… when money is so easy to get, this is what happens.”