Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pro-Malay policies are damaging the country. And they know it

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 – Malaysia will relax some of its pro-Malay economic policies as part of a major stimulus package to keep the economy from faltering further, Minister of International Trade and Industry Muhyiddin Yassin said yesterday. [The Malaysian Insider]

Pro-Malay policies are damaging the country. And they know it. But nothing seems to be going around the tables of the policy makers to address the issue of inequalities enshrined in the New Economic Policy (NEP) that has been the subject of controversy since its inception in the 1960's.

The proponents of the NEP argue that the policy was intended to give a boost to the less economically-fortunate ethnic Malays, as compared to the other ethnic groups in the country. It had noble intentions, yes I agree. But the question was how long does Malaysia need for an unequal playing field to exist between the ethnic groups before the policy becomes discriminative? 20 -30 years?

(Click here for my previous article on the NEP.)

No one knows because the NEP has not been discontinued despite the lack of convincing results after 40-odd years - with some quarters claiming the 'economic inequalities' given to the ethnic Malays were divine rights. But speak to a rational Malaysian and he/she would tell you that such discriminative policies should either be done away or re-amended to encompass all members of every ethnic group who are less fortunate. There are also poor ethnic non-Malays out there as there are poor ethnic Malays in this country.

The fact that the government was willing to go easy on pro-Malay policies now during the economic slowdown has shown that such policies that favour one ethnic group over another is detrimental to the country's economic future. Pro-Malay policies are in the way of healthy economic growth and is keeping foreign investors away from investing within our shores. By going easy on them, it does go a long way to help steer the nation out of the current global turmoil; thus making Malaysia competitive again!

To say Malaysia is not affected by the global economic crisis would be a public lie. Malaysia's exports have fallen 14.9% from December last year given the export demand for local goods have declined.

It was reported that the government would scrap the guidelines for the retail sector in order to keep the economy from worsening. Under the guidelines, retailers and restaurants in Malaysia were required to have 30% bumiputera equity participation if they had more than 15% foreign shareholding. They were also required to have boards, management and staff reflecting the demographics of Malaysia - meaning a certain number of bumiputera workers had to be employed regardless of their qualification or competitiveness.

So when is the time for Malaysia to move beyond racial lines in our economic policies? On March 2, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat (image) said the NEP had neglected the rights of the non-Malays and even labelled the "bumiputera'' terminology as racist. DAP’s Dr Boo Cheng Hau, the opposition leader in Johor was reported to have even compared “bumiputeraism” with apartheid. Too strong of a comparison from the DAP man? Maybe. Just maybe.

UMNO Youth's Khairy Jamaludin took a swipe at the PAS veteran, Nik Aziz for saying the NEP was discriminative to the non-Malays. According to Khairy, the NEP had never discriminated against the non-Malays in the disbursement of aid and the approach taken by the Barisan Nasional government.

“I feel Nik Aziz’s remark was not accurate. May be he had been wrongly informed by his officers.We have never suppressed or oppressed other races and previously at the initial stages, we gave priority to the Bumiputera because they were the poorest at that time," he said. [The Malaysian Insider, 2/3/2009]
That 'time' has long gone by, Khairy...