Tycoons will be respected not only for their ability to amass wealth but also their willingness to do charity.
AT a function last Sunday to hand over 84 paintings and calligraphy of a famous Buddhist monk to Tzu Chi KL/Selangor to help fund the building of an international school, global investor Tan Sri Chua Ma Yu shared a story of three American tycoons that has impacted his life.
Oil baron John Rockefeller (1839-1937), steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) and banker J.P. Morgan (1887-1913) were good friends, although they were competing with one another to be the richest man in the United States.
Rockefeller, who monopolised the oil sector then, was considered “the wealthiest of all time”, although he was briefly overtaken by Carnegie.
Later, after attending Morgan’s funeral, both decided to compete in philanthropic work.
Carnegie gave away 90% of his fortune to charities, foundations and universities. His call to the rich in the United States to give away their wealth to improve society stimulated a wave of philanthropy.
Chua ended his short Mandarin narration by pointing out that Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai – Top Glove Corporation Bhd founder – could take the lead in philanthropy.
“Like the three Americans, our Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai has worked hard all his life to build up his wealth and turn his company into the world’s largest rubber glove maker. He can play a lead role in philanthropy.”
The message was clear to the well-heeled among the audience in Chua’s St Regis hotel: wealthy people should start doing charity for the good of society.
The other guests of honour at the function – which also saw Tzu Chi celebrating Chua’s 65th birthday – included Tan Sri Kong Hon Kong of Nirvana Asia Group, Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum of Mah Sing Group and Tan Sri Pheng Yin Huah of Hua Zong. All have donated generously to charities.
Once a legendary stockbroker, Chua – who now devotes most of his time to doing charity and investment activities - tells Sunday Star at his penthouse office in St Regis Kuala Lumpur after the event: “Money is not everything. You must do charity while you are alive. Wealth after death is meaningless.
“There is no need to write a living pledge (advocated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet). You don’t know what will happen after death. I feel the joy of giving and I am enjoying my life doing charity.”
The chairman of the CMY Capital Group is active in several charities. But the project he is most proud of is none other than The Community Chest (TCC) project, mooted by Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay of Genting Group and co-founded by him.
TCC channels its net profits from Big Sweep gaming operation mainly to Chinese, Tamil and missionary schools.
Chaired by Chua, TCC is financially backed by Lim of Genting, Chua and 13 other businessmen.
With charity as its main goal, all stakeholders set up a firm named Jana Pendidikan Malaysia to buy over Pan Malaysian Pools in 2011 for RM2bil.
As of end of last month, TCC had given out aid totalling RM135mil to 330 Chinese, Tamil and missionary schools.
At the Sunday event, businessmen present did not fail Chua and Tzu Chi. A total of 28 paintings, which attracted donations of RM1mil for Tzu Chi, were taken up.
All the 84 art pieces could potentially raise RM2mil to RM4mil for the RM100mil development fund for Tzu Chi’s school that will focus on character building in accordance to the teachings of Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen. Lim of Top Glove, who is also Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers president, graciously took the lead to pledge support for the charity sale.
He donated RM150,000 to Tzu Chi for four pieces of Chinese paintings and calligraphy of the late Master Bo Yuan, respected for his teachings in Buddhism.
But unknown to many, this amount accounts for only a small portion of Lim’s contributions to Tzu Chi and education.
In 2009, the 59-year-old entrepreneur and his wife set up Top Glove Foundation, which has since donated more than RM22mil to education, according to a recent article in Forbes Asia.
As the billionaire couple are volunteers in Tzu Chi Malaysia and are often at the forefront raising funds for its charitable projects, other volunteers believe that the fundraising for its international school would go smoothly.
The school is scheduled to take in students in January 2020.
Can’t stir up a wave
Although Chua hopes that his charity work and American story could inspire other tycoons into doing charity, he does not expect enthusiasm being ignited within the Chinese community.
“Timing is not right,” says the billionaire.
Though the country’s macro economic figures look brighter now, only some export-led sectors of the economy are looking up. On the ground, many do not feel the buzz.
Amid changing political dynamics, the battered ringgit and the confidence level of the business community have yet to recover fully.
In addition, recent raids by the Inland Revenue Board is causing the rich to reduce their contributions to charities so that their wealth is not exposed.
The agony suffered by property tycoon Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, whose personal foreign bank deposit of RM126mil was seized by the IRB to settle Country Heights Sdn Bhd’s RM22mil tax liabilities, was a shocking and upsetting tale for many.
The IRB has justified its actions, saying that some businessmen had delayed or under-declared their tax liabilities.
Against this backdrop, not many want to be good Samaritans and attract unwarranted attention.
In addition, the cash flow position of many mid-sized businesses is affected by the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The Government’s delay in refunding GST overpayment has caused companies to be extra careful about their cash flow.
And though many Chinese subscribe to the “giving back to society” philosophy, there are yet others who believe their hard-earned money should not be shared.
While many Chinese tycoons are modest about their wealth, making it difficult to know who and how much they have given out to charities, there is no shortage of repected philanthropists.
These people are mainly leaders of trade groups, Chinese associations, foundations or/and captains of industry. More often than not, their donations are channeled to education and schools.
Regular donors include Robert Kuok of Kuok Foundation, Tan Sri Yeoh Tiong Lay of YTL Group, Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng of IOI Group, Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah of Sunway Group, Tan Sri Vincent Tan of Berjaya Corporation and Tan Sri Koo Yuen Kim of Perfect Group.
In fund-raising functions, donors often relate the deeds of the late Tan Kah Kee (1874-1961), a philanthropist who made his fortune in Malaya and Singapore in shipping, rice trading, rubber and pineapple plantations, and food manufacturing.
The Fujian-born tycoon was a benefactor of schools and Universiti Malaya. In 1925, he donated all profits from his enterprises to schools, education and charities. Before he died in China, he bequeathed all his assets to a school in his home village Jimei and the University of Xiaman founded by him.
China has built a memorial for this “legendary overseas Chinese” in Fujian province where he is honoured as “a patriot, educator, social reformer, far-sighted entrepreneur and a model emigrant.”
The other legendary figure is China-born rubber magnate Lee Kong Chian (1893-1967), the founder of Singapore-based Lee Rubber Group and charitable Lee Foundation.
Lee donated generously to schools and universities in then Malaya and Singapore. Every year, Lee Foundation pays out RM100mil to RM200mil to help poor students and charities.
When he died, more than 6,000 people braved the rain to be part of the funeral procession in Singapore.
The late Lee Kuan Yew, then Singapore Prime Minister, said: “He was a man respected not only for his ability to amass wealth, but more importantly for the contributions he made to the progress of society.”
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