Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Malaysia questions ethnic preferences

By Robin Brant
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Najib Razak, March 09
PM Najib Razak wants to win back the support of non-Malays

Malaysia's New Economic Policy is not new, it has been around for almost 40 years.

But in his first 100 days in office, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak has been forced to tackle the government's most controversial policy - one that gives special treatment to the majority Malays.

It was meant to help people like Azban. He is 37, with a wife and two young children. He works in a ticket office at a train station.

I met him as we waited for the lift at the government-built tower block where he lives, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

The estate is rundown, with water pouring down from a spill higher up.

But it is better than the wooden house he used to live in before he left his village for the capital city.

For decades the NEP has ensured preferential treatment for people like Azban: special access to jobs, housing, education and loans - all because they are Malay.

Malaysia is made up of three main ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese and Indians.

The Malays make up the majority - just. The Chinese and Indians have been in this country for centuries but some Malays still regard them as foreigners.

Patronage politics

The NEP was born out of race riots in 1969.

The aim of the policy was to tackle an imbalance between rich businessmen, mostly Chinese, and the poor, who were mostly Malay.

At the time government figures claimed that Malays controlled less than 3% of the economy.

Ramon Navaratnam was one of the team of government economists who helped draw up the NEP.

"The principle was, have an expanding cake, with more balance and equity provided for Malays or the underprivileged - of all races it was supposed to be."

But he said the noble aims were soon displaced by the politics of patronage.

"Some politicians got smart about it and wanted to allocate special reservations and shares and stocks and contracts to Malays, and very often it went to the wrong Malays, who had no clue about business."

Forty years on the Malays, who are also known as Bumiputra, which means "son of the soil", have grown in economic power.

According to government statistics they control 20% of the economy, but that is still some way off the target of 30%.

Malay students board the bus at Universiti Malaya in Selangor
Malay students are granted preferential access to universities

It may have been an effective political tool but many people, such as Syed Amin from the Malay Chamber of Commerce, see it as a failed project.

"There is no point in saying that we have achieved some measure of success just because we have trained a few Bumis in being professionals" he told me.

He thinks the Malays still need special help.

I think the people of this country realise and understand and agree that the Bumi population of this country needs to be supported."

'Still in development'

Tucked away in an exhibition centre on the top floor of a shopping mall was an event for small and medium sized enterprises.

I got there just as it opened. Some stalls were still setting up.

After a 15-minute walk around I had been pitched security systems, help on setting up a toll free 1-800 number and numerous franchise opportunities.

The event should have been a haven for entrepreneurs, to come to promote their business and to share ideas.

For years in Malaysia entrepreneurship has always been associated with the Chinese. Read more...

1 comment:

eddy said...

1. The NEP in the beginning had this glorious and wonderful objective to address the imbalance between the rich who are perceived to be mostly the Chinese and the poor who are perceived to be mostly the Malays/Bumis and Indians. The NEP was OK until a few politicians and their cronies from ALL races, became greedy and got rich at the expense of those who the NEP really were set out to reach.

It’s not all a total failure though, 40 years on, at least now one cannot say that only the Chinese are rich and educated as there are Malays and Indians who are rich and educated also. On the other hand one cannot say that only the Malays/Bumis are poor as there are also Chinese and Indians who are poor. I think the Government has realized now that NEP or affirmative action policy must now be adjusted to be a need based rather than a race based policy.

Actually all Malaysians needs help, but some, more than others unfortunately.The sooner we all underatsnds this the better for all of us.

PM Najib is doing just that, starting with the Scholarships awards, the liberalization of the equity markets designed to attract foreign investments etc. The BBC said in spite of the liberalization measures, Malaysia’s financial Markets have not moved, of course it has not moved much, these measure takes time to sink in, its not instant noodle measures and by the way Malaysia is a global trading nation and unless the USA and Europe recovers from these economic storm, Malaysia is not going to be able to recover earlier than these economic giants that’s for sure.

As a citizen who just wants to cari makan here in Malaysia, I want a Government who is Strong, Professional, and Decisive and will always uphold the Perlembagaan and Laws of Malaysia and are always defending Malaysia’s interest domestic and overseas. Above all for any Foreign or Domestic Direct Investment to occur there must be real political stability. We have not seen political stability since March 2008. However, I am sure there will be more good and decisive things to come from PM Najib and we should give him our best support in the nation’s quest towards a one Malaysia irrespective of our political ideologies.

2. Recently, Blogger Kadir Jasin said that there will be no unity in a multiethnic Malaysia unless economic growth is accompanied by fair distribution.

What is fair distribution?The answer would be subjective but could it be fair if the minority has a lot more than the majority.

Just Food for Thought…