March 15, 2006
So what’s the big deal about cronyism anyway? Wikipedia refers to cronyism as partiality to long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to public office without regard for their qualifications.
But let’s take it down to its root word: crony. A crony is a friend, a pal. Someone who stands by your side. A chum, basically.
Think about this. Do you believe that a friend in need is a friend indeed? Do you believe that friends ought to help each other out? Would you go the extra mile in support of a friend?
If you believe in all these altruistic values above, then you should not logically be averse to the literal definition of the term cronyism.
Let’s take the argument further. In any friendship, there is a level of trust and relationship building involved. One cannot quantify this in any way. It is simply the dynamism between two people who have grown to rely upon each other.
Say friends A and B met in college many years ago. They hung out in the pub, chased girls together. Many years later, they meet each other by coincidence. Friend A works in a large corporation, and they find themselves struggling with an IT system that keeps crashing on them. He laments the sorry state of his inefficient computer. Friend B happens to work in an IT service provider company. He says, hey, I could do good stuff for you, man. Why waste your time on these old guys?
Friend A to Friend B: That makes sense. Let’s call it a deal.
Seems clean so far? What more of relationships built over the years? If I have a problem with my car, I logically go to my mechanic who’s given me years of service. If I have a problem with my crazy plumbing system I’m going to call the Ah Keong who serves with a smile.
While there is much talk of open tenders, how much use is this really? Does it serve any purpose except to deplete the resources of the poor guy who writes a proposal, only to end up rejected? (But we all knew he was going to be pushed aside anyway)
Where does one draw the line between cronyism and friendship-business? Perhaps, it is when there is blatant advantage a vendor has over the “Friend” involved, and yet this friend is chosen.
It’s all very subjective. I’m not sure exactly how I would respond were I to be in the position to make strategic decisions on a high level.
But until then… I can speak out and say… Malaysia: Cronyism? More like Cronymafiasm.
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