Choosing between ethos and practicality

Emmanuel Joseph

BlackRock is an investment company with more than US$10 trillion in assets under management. – Wikipedia pic, May 30, 2024.

MANY have criticised the decision of Malaysia Airports Holdings to accept an indirect investment from BlackRock. The protests add to a chorus of BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) complaints against several companies operating in Malaysia.

BlackRock is an investment company with more than US$10 (RM47) trillion in assets under management. To put that in perspective, it could buy the Malaysian economy 22 times over.

It would be unwise to reject the investment, especially when Malaysia is competing against countries such Indonesia and Vietnam, both of which have outpaced us in attracting investors.

It’s not just about the money; expertise is also a crucial factor. Global Infrastructure Partners, in which BlackRock has equity, manages a dozen ports and airports in Europe and Australasia. Many leading companies in green technology and digitalisation of today, some of which are in Malaysia, are funded by BlackRock or the other two major US index fund investors, Vanguard and State Street. 

The most important thing is making a stand. The fact that BlackRock is still interested in investing in Malaysia even though the country is strongly pro-Palestinean, shows a significant trust in our economy and the wisdom of our government and corporations.

Besides Malaysia Airports Holdings, BlackRock has stakes in about two dozen other Malaysian blue-chip companies in the banking, energy, manufacturing, and hospitality sectors. It would be prudent to grab at opportunity rather than lose out economically, which would only reduce our capacity to support Palestine economically or politically.

Being aligned with global funds benefits us in other areas too. It was clear how institutional investors impact the market when the national semiconductor strategy was announced. BlackRock owns substantial interests in nearly all global leading semiconductor producers.

Perhaps we should focus on the educational institutes propagating Zionist ideals and sportswear, and fast-food brands supporting militaries enforcing those ideals. We should also consider barring from our shores academics, sports figures, celebrities, community leaders, and politicians who support these causes.

Showing solidarity with Palestine and Iran, which are often unfairly treated, would be a stronger way to express our stance. This was the diplomatic and political strategy of Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who balanced diplomatic and economic ties between various global powers and benefited from these relationships while firmly expressing standing his ground

Brands are afraid of damage that affects their bottomline. The continuing boycotts of brands by billions worldwide should hurt them where it matters the most. Instead rejecting beneficial investments, it would be more effective to keep our economic and political stature so that we have the strength to defend the voiceless.

As a small developing country in a highly competitive region, we need to choose our battles carefully. Our own voice needs to be strong to advocate effectively for those who cannot speak for themselves. – May 30, 2024.

* Emmanuel Joseph firmly believes that Klang is the best place on Earth, and that motivated people can do far more good than any leader with motive.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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