DEAR God of Prosperity, I've seen you at the office several times this past few weeks, but I've brushed you aside as just guys hired to parade around in odd costumes. I've now realised that I'd missed the point. Like the other large, bearded fellow in red, you embody the spirit and sentiments of a festival.
You're not as jolly and grandfatherly as Santa Claus, I suppose, but you're as much a part of Chinese New Year as he is an icon of Christmas.
Chinese New Year is a time for togetherness, hope and renewal. You're closely associated with the celebrations because one traditional aspect of it is the welcoming of the God of Prosperity. The belief wish is perhaps a better word is that you will come bringing good fortune for the rest of the year.
This brings me to the another similarity between you and Santa Claus. Both are you are expected to deliver, directly or indirectly, something nice during the respective holidays.
On Dec 25 all over the world, young kids jump out of bed to unwrap Christmas presents. And what is Chinese New Year without the children's joy of receiving ang pow?
There's more than one story about the origin of the practice of giving money in red packets, but most of us can agree that an ang pow is a fun way (for the recipient at least) to invite luck, fair health and yes, prosperity.
In fact, I'm convinced that you potentially have a bigger role in Chinese New Year than we currently understand.
The world of commerce is starting to cotton on to that. Personal appearances by the “God of Prosperity” to hand out ang pow and oranges are a standard feature these days at Chinese New Year-linked functions. Around Chinese New Year, it's almost impossible to go shopping without spotting you somewhere perhaps as a mall decoration here, frozen on a poster there, or greeting customers at a store entrance elsewhere.
It's also telling that some marketing geniuses have decided that cutesy versions of you smiley, rosy-cheeked and younger are more appealing to a broader audience. I won't be surprised if we one day have a cartoon series called “The Adventures of GOP and Friends”.
I do wonder what you think about all this playing around with your image, but that's a letter for another day. No, today, I want to talk to you about being a repository of desires and aspirations.
You know how children are encouraged to write to Santa Claus to ask for Christmas presents? And because they believe he exists and that he actually travels all the way from the North Pole bearing goodies, adults often use this as an incentive to get the young ones to behave.
I'm convinced you can also be one whom people turn to for requests. They may not necessarily believe that you grant such favours or that you are real, but hope and dreams are powerful, especially if expressed openly with clarity and focus.
But you're the God of Prosperity. You shouldn't be bombarded with juvenile longing for toys, trips to Disneyland, video game consoles or Apple products.
The believers say you can bestow wealth, and that means you're in charge of business and finance, and the economy. Therefore, I'm suggesting that you get wish lists just before every Chinese New Year from entrepreneurs, executives, investors, economists and analysts, and anybody else who has a stake in money matters.
I would like to be the first to submit a wish list. Don't worry, I won't ask for something huge or impossible. I'm not going to be the annoyingly precocious kid who only wants Santa Claus and his helpers to restore world peace by Christmas.
It would be unrealistic to make it your responsibility to end the debt crisis in Europe. And I know it's not your job to improve the job and housing markets of the United States. Nor should you be expected to step in to ensure the China economy never experiences a hard landing.
Let's stick to the micro picture and manageable things for now. I shall only look at recent developments in Corporate Malaysia. And since this is new to you, I'll keep my wish list short:
Wish #1: Protect the minority shareholders
Recently, there have been several cases of boardroom tussles at listed companies that extended to requisitions for EGMs to remove directors and to appoint new ones. Among the companies are Patimas Computers Bhd, Tiger Synergy Bhd, Bright Packaging Industries Bhd and Metronic Global Bhd.
These are often murky situations. Little is known about the reasons for the bids to oust the existing board members. Typically, the existing management doesn't offer an explanation for the hostility either.
Despite the lack of useful information, the minority shareholders are required to take sides at the EGMs. That's the definition of an impossible decision.
Wish #2: Tighten the supervision of interest schemes
The brouhaha over proposed termination of the Country Heights Grower Scheme ended yesterday with a near unanimous endorsement of the resolution. But this episode has highlighted the need for a more robust oversight of such investment schemes that come under the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM).
The good news is that the CCM says it has reviewed the interest scheme legal framework and there are plans to introduce “a more dynamic, modern and responsive regulatory framework”. Hopefully, that will happen soon.
Wish #3: Sort out the mess at GPlus
Nobody seems to know how Golden Plus Holdings Bhd (GPlus) has been performing since the fourth quarter ended December 2010. The unaudited results for that quarter was the last set of numbers announced by the property company.
A special audit report released last month reveals that a wholly-owned subsidiary of GPlus had lost the rights to the undeveloped portion of a property project in China, which is a cornerstone business of the company. The GPlus management dispute this.
On Monday, the GPlus chairman stepped down, saying he could not do his job effectively because two China subsidiaries haven't been complying with the management requests and the board's decisions “with the required sense of urgency”.
I must apologise. These three wishes may not be so manageable after all. But hey, who says it's easy to be the God of Prosperity?
Executive editor Errol Oh misses those days when he only collected ang pow.