March 15, 2006

‘Friendship’ Business

Posted in Malaysia at 11:53 pm by egalitaria

cartoon.gifSo 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.



  1. jd said,

    i think one easy way to differentiate is when we are holding position representing the interst of someone else (goverment, public listed companies, working for a company not owned by us) and we deliberetly give the contract to our friend (crony) knowing very well that there are other who can do a BETTER job with a more REASONABLE price.

    If it is our own company, our own car etc etc, then there is no issue on who you want to give the job to.


  2. egalitaria said,

    hi jd,

    what is reasonable? what is a better job? by paying more for a particular product, the person might be receiving quality service in return. what this quality service is, of course, is subjective. what i’m saying is that to public officers, a better job at a reasonable price is precisely what they may be choosing. to them…

    of course being in public office means you are responsible to those you represent. too often people forget this.

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