If billion is buta, then that would make a billionaire, a butawan.
Million in Bahasa Malaysia is juta. However, billion is bilion and not buta.
We’re not about to dissect why the translation is as such but the recent million-billion drama between former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz did make us wonder why billion is not translated as buta since million is juta.
Perhaps it isn’t buta because a millionaire is a jutawan, which means a billionaire would be a butawan. Might create some confusion there.
Anyway, let’s get into the drama that unfolded recently. In case you have no idea what’s been happening, we’ll summarise it for you here so you won’t feel left out.
It all started when Dr Mahathir attended a dialogue session at the Setia Alam Convention Centre (SACC) on 8 July organised by Proklamasi Orang Melayu.
What is this proclamation? In short, it looks like Dr Mahathir’s “retirement project”. Remember when he hinted at retirement after losing in the 15th General Election (GE15)?
Dr Mahathir has been promoting this proclamation, calling for people to sign it in a bid to unite the Malays across political borders.
So on 8 July, Dr Mahathir was among the speakers at the dialogue session where he claimed there were people who wanted to invest in Malaysia but were not entertained by the current government.
8 July at 7.39pm
Sinar Harian wrote a news report on this, saying Dr Mahathir spoke about an individual who met him and “wanted to invest RM500 billion in Langkawi.”
(Note that the article has been amended, so it no longer says billion now.)
10 July at 8.04pm
A few days later, Tengku Zafrul reacted to this with a video which was posted on 10 July at 8.04pm, saying if it was true someone wanted to invest RM500 billion, then the government would roll out the red carpet for them, from the airport to the hotel.
The ex-banker, in the video, remarked how the highest investment ever recorded in the country was just RM309 billion a year. He said there has never been an investment worth RM500 billion approved in the past.
“If it is true there is one investor who wants to invest RM500 billion in Langkawi alone, this will be a new record in Malaysia. As the minister in charge of investments, if indeed this investor is real, we will follow up and make it easy for this investment to come in,” he said, asking for Dr Mahathir to share the details of this alleged investor.
Perhaps it was then Sinar Harian realised they had made a mistake. They amended the news report to indicate that Dr Mahathir had said RM500 million, and not billion as they initially wrote.
11 July at 4.23pm
Dr Mahathir meanwhile slammed Tengku Zafrul in a posting on social media on 11 July at 4.23pm, labelling him as “over-excited”.
Dr Mahathir said the news report had been amended without him prompting them to.
“Perhaps, before the newspaper had made a correction, Tengku Zafrul without wasting any time, posted on social media detailing how the highest investment in a year Malaysia received was RM309 billion and that even when I was prime minister, investments did not hit RM500 billion.
“If this sense of over-excitedness in Tengku Zafrul displayed for the inaccurate news report is also present while he is looking for investors to come to Malaysia, then I am confident the dark and depressing state of our country’s economy can be overcome,” Dr Mahathir remarked.
It was an 11-point post, but we’ll just focus on the million-billion drama. Feel free to read the whole thing here.
11 July – 8.06pm
A few hours after he was called over-excited by the 98-year-old former prime minister, Tengku Zafrul responded.
He presented a timeline of events to counter Dr Mahathir.
He claimed that the correction in the news report was only made after his video which was posted on 10 July.
“From Saturday to Monday, three days. In these three days, no one from your (Dr Mahathir) side asked Sinar Harian to make a correction?” Tengku Zafrul asked.
So what did Dr Mahathir say, really?
A video of the dialogue is available on Suara TV’s Facebook but it’s almost two hours long.
So we looked for the contentious part and extracted it so we can all hear what was said.
Dr Mahathir clearly said “lima ratus million.”
But we can see how that could have been confusing. When someone says lima ratus in Malay, naturally it is expected that the next word would also be in Malay.
Perhaps that is why it was initially misheard as “billion”.
If Dr Mahathir had said “lima ratus juta”, we wouldn’t be writing this article and we wouldn’t be wondering why billion is not buta. (Overthinking can be a pain sometimes.)
Also, if Tengku Zafrul had listened to the recording of the dialogue session first before making his counter video, the whole drama could have been avoided too.