The rich, their wealth and charity

WHAT is the commitment of our super-rich to charity?

By super-rich, I mean those whose assets run into the tens of millions, many of whom seem to be running shy of publicising their giving and other acts of charity.

There are many who give quietly, eschewing the publicity that such acts beget and that is, indeed, their right. Theirs may be the philosophy of "the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing".

There is no denying the merit accruing from this style of thinking.

But billionaire Tan Sri Vincent Tan seems to be bucking the trend over the past few years, preferring the proverbial "song and dance" over his acts of philanthropy.
And why pray tell is he doing this?

In his own words as the founder of Berjaya Corporation faced an august audience of royalty, well wishers, business associates, staff and members of the public recently, "to give back to society".

At this point, I can almost hear some minds out there thinking that a columnist in Berjaya-owned theSun is required to make these sounds to please the big boss and earn his keep.

I beg to differ, and those who have been following this column for the past eight months will have noticed that I have no favourites except the poor, needy and unfortunate in our society.

I have criticised the rich for not doing enough for their poorer cousins besides picking apart policies that favour the affluent over their lesser brethren.

But when someone gives RM25.6 million to 90 non-governmental in a little over 60 minutes in an act of charity, I am compelled to write about it, whoever it may be. And this gels very well with Tan's philosophy behind giving: so that other wealthy people like him can emulate his deeds and help the unfortunate in our midst.

He did not mince words when he exhorted the wealthy to give at least 10% of their wealth to society which helped in their wealth creation. He was not always like that.

Tan was the epitome of the financially well-off Chinese businessman who kept a low profile in terms of philanthropy ostensibly so that he would not be frowned upon as a show off.

It took son, and Berjaya chairman, Datuk Robin Tan, some time to convince the traditionalist that people needed to know about his philanthropy so that they could emulate him.

And so began this new tradition of giving in the Tan family.

It is my earnest desire, and I am sure that of the average Malaysian, that the tycoons who walk among us ordinary folk will take a page from the elder Tan's book.
That the poor will be with us always is a truism that needs to be addressed.

And for those who quietly perform acts of charity, please continue doing so. Malaysia needs you.

But for those who have not started doing so, you are most welcome to help out. Malaysia needs you even more.

Wither senior citizens to-be?

I, and many other soon-to-be-senior citizens (at least by government definition), are irked by the bureaucratic tangle that has left us out in the cold where benefits for the retired are concerned.

We are the victims of a system that retired us at 55 years when we were at our prime and expects us to get by without jobs (there are the exemptions like me) and the benefits reserved for those who are 60 years or older.

Why this discrimination between retired persons just a few months shy of 60 and those a few months more senior? Do we not suffer from the same aches, pains and financial constraints that our very slightly older brothers and sisters do?

The other day I queued up to pay for an LRT trip into town and was pleasantly surprised when the counter official asked if I was a senior citizen.

I told him I was, having been re-employed after mandatory retirement at an age that the authorities thought was suitable to put me and countless others out to pasture.

He then asked for my identity card and after perusing it said I was a few months short of 60 and thus unable to enjoy the hefty discount served for those who had reached the magic figure.

The same happens when people of my vintage go to cinemas where there is a discount for senior citizens. We end up paying full rate despite the commiserating "sorry uncle" from the person at the counter who is younger than our children.

I am not for a minute decrying the benefits accruing to those who are 60 years and older. Please continue enjoying it. But government and the private sector should spare a thought for those without jobs after 55 for whom every extra ringgit counts.

They can surely use a few ringgit of relief in their daily lives after more than half a lifetime of serving the nation and people.

Balan Moses (executive editor, news) thinks that a healthy society is where the rich give a hand to the poor and aging. This is a moral imperative imposed on us by a higher power. Any imbalance in this equation may spell trouble for all over time. Let's talk about this. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com