Sin Chew Daily
The September 16 Malaysia Day is just behind us, but the mood is still lingering. Perhaps it is time for us to inspect which way the nation is heading to from the perspectives of Malaysians.
The Roundtable on the New Economic Policy (NEP): Reflections on the NEP after 50 Years jointly organized by the Economic Club of Kuala Lumpur and KSI recently deserves some serious contemplation from all of us.
The New Economic Policy introduced by the government in 1970 should have been officially overdue now, but the mentality to help bumiputras has managed to live on in a number of different forms. Such race-based patronage system is still very much alive today and we can safely say that the NEP has been securely ingrained in the country’s development policies over the decades.
In 2013, then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak unveiled a series of new plans and strategies aimed at strengthening bumiputra economy, including the establishment of Bumiputra Economic Council (MEB). Last year, then PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the establishment of Bumiputra Prosperity Council to significantly lift the economic status of the Malays.
We have never been short of such race-based government patronage measures over the past so many decades. According to government officials, the bumiputras are still lagging behind and therefore need the support and help from the government.
Despite so many measures introduced to help the bumis, the results have been hardly satisfactory, and this highlights the intrinsic deficiencies of such policies or their implementation.
Despite the effort by previous administrations targeting 30% equity holding by bumiputras, the performance has been fluctuating and the goal has yet to be reached today.
Statistics show that bumiputras only held 1.5% of equity stake back in 1969, rising to 12.56% in 1980 and 23.5% in 2011, before sliding back to 16.2% in 2015. If the government’s strategy has been effective, why has it failed despite so much government effort over the years to see to its success? Of course, some have questioned the reliability of the numbers.
A more important question: are such race-based patronage policies still relevant today?
Former finance ministry secretary-general Mohd Sheriff Kassim pointed out in the Roundtable on “Reflections on NEP” that the government should reinspect the bumi-first policy in order to encourage the Malays to compete according to their individual strengths. He hoped the 12MP would focus more on inclusive policies based on needs and not race.
Wealth disparity is a cross-community issue that happens in every ethnic group. In other words, poverty exists in every race and not exclusive to any particular group. The government should strive to abolish poverty irrespective of race.
Any race-based policy will only widen the gap among Malaysians from different ethnic backgrounds and will not maximize resource efficiency or fully exploit and develop the potentials of this country. It will only form a stumbling block to the country’s development.
As we celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Federation of Malaysia, it is imperative that we wean ourselves of the toxic race-based policies and help the underprivileged communities irrespective of race and religion so that all Malaysians can fully exert their potentials in fulfilling the real Malaysian Dream.