Sep 16, 2013

    Bumiputera policy not way forward

    Sin Chew Daily/Asia News Network

    MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced a whole series of measures on bumiputera economic empowerment, which could have been the biggest policy he has introduced since his re-election.

    A long list of measures which I believe not many will have the patience to go through in detail. After all, if you are not a bumi, why bother about them?

    Indeed the bumis need to be empowered economically, but the same speaks for non-bumis as well. As a matter of fact, only if the country's overall economy is empowered, will the bumis be economically empowered. Otherwise, even the non-bumi economy will not be empowered.

    I was reminded of the New Economic Model (NEM) launched by the then newly appointed Prime Minister three years ago to replace the controversial New Economic Policy.

    The NEM was drafted by a team led by banker-cum-former minister in the PM's department, Tan Sri Amirsham Abdul Aziz, with the objective of promoting economic development to catapult Malaysia into the league of high-income countries.

    To achieve the target of higher economic growth, it is essential that we free ourselves from the old growth-impeding distribution model, replacing the antiquated quota system with meritocracy.

    Indeed, the government should offer assistance to the economically weak, but that should not be drawn along racial lines.

    Back then, Datuk Seri Najib gave the impression that he set his eyes far above Umno, while Mr Amirsham was seen as a pragmatic and open-minded economist who saw no ethnicity, but the nation and her people.

    But a powerful backlash emerged from within Umno, and the NEM was modified, and lost some of its spirit along the way.

    I am not sure whether the NEM is still in existence three years on. What I know is that "bumiputera economic empowerment" is stealing the limelight right now.

    Mr Najib has put it very candidly that the bumi-empowerment policy is a form of appreciation for the Malay voters' undivided support of the Barisan Nasional government.

    Of course, with the Umno General Assembly just around the corner, Mr Najib needs to answer to millions of party members. Under the pressure from his party, he must come up with some kind of Malay agenda.

    Meanwhile, our budgetary deficits have soared to levels where drastic measures to cut them are essential. Public debts, too, are approaching the government-approved ceiling.

    With dampened growth and escalating deficits and debts, coupled with a poor global outlook, our economic future is anything but rosy.

    Many of the policies have helped only the Malays in power or within Umno, not ordinary Malays.

    The times are fast changing and the government cannot afford to stay in the reverse gear, especially with everyone else inside the same car.