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Reviewing the NEP: Who should know better?

“Ketika [Dasar Ekonomi Baru] dilancarkan, Allahyarham Tun Razak berkata: ‘DEB bukan tujuan untuk mempromosikan kepentingan kaum tertentu tetapi ia adalah rangka untuk kemajuan dan perpaduan negara’ … Tetapi sekarang kita sudah hilang tumpuan mengenai matlamat asal untuk mencapai perpaduan yang dinyatakan dalam DEB. Bagi pihak tertentu, DEB menjadi punca perpecahan kerana dasar ini disalahguna oleh pihak tertentu untuk meraih keuntungan.”

CIMB group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, telling Malay newspaper Mingguan Malaysia about the need to review the way the New Economic Policy (NEP) is implemented. Ridding the policy of abuse and corruption was necessary for the policy to be effective in helping Malay Malaysians become competitive, the younger brother of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak added.

Nazir has frequently called for the NEP, introduced in 1971 by his father, second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, to be reviewed. (Source: DEB perlu segera dikaji semula sekarang, Mingguan Malaysia, 20 June 2010)

“I have repeatedly spoken about the NEP because there is too little rational discussion of it. NEP transformation is not abandonment of the NEP, but the restoration and strengthening of its purpose as an instrument of national unity and its character of mere policy.”

Nazir again, speaking at an investment conference, and saying that economic transformation for Malaysia cannot happen without transforming the NEP. Nazir said a review of the policy should include a timeline and measurable results. A review must also be supported by the majority of the population, he added. (Source: Little rational discussion on NEP, says Nazir, The Edge Financial Daily, p.10, 8 July 2010)

“I am working towards a gradual liberalisation. In the not too distant future, we will see the elements of it.”

“I welcome the challenge to make the [g]overnment and Barisan Nasional appeal to all sections of the community.”

Najib has more responsibilities

Datuk Seri Najib Razak, while he was still deputy prime minister, in an interview with Bloomberg in October 2008. He said liberalisation of the NEP would be done gradually as bumiputera began to feel more confident about competing with others locally and abroad.

Seven months later, as prime minister on his maiden visit to Singapore, Najib reiterated his plan to Singapore newspaper The Straits Times to eventually undo the NEP.  He said ethnic quotas had damaged Malaysia’s competitiveness. (Source: Najib working towards easing of NEP, The Star, 25 Oct 2008)

“You cannot say that because [the] NEP was mismanaged or there was corruption, we have to stop its objectives. It must continue, regardless the failures. The policy should continue until you see the distribution of wealth in accordance with the 30% target. Only then can you talk about a level playing field.”

Ibrahim Ali

Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali, on one hand acknowledging the bad implementation of the NEP, but on the other insisting that it should be retained.

At the Malay Consultative Council congress on 30 May 2010, Ibrahim told Najib, who was present, that the gathering had rejected the New Economic Model (NEM). The policy, while not calling for the total abolishment of race-based affirmative action, called for a fair and equitable society. (Source: The real deal with Perkasa, The Nut Graph, 16 March 2010)

“I did not promise to do away with it. I promised a new approach.”

“We want to get there but it has to be through a different route.”

Najib, in an interview with Singapore-based Channel News Asia, refuting claims that the NEP would be abolished under the NEM. Najib said affirmative action would remain under the NEM, but it would be made more market-friendly, more merit- and needs-based, and more transparent. (Source: Scrap NEP? I didnt promise that, says Najib, Malaysiakini, 29 June 2010)

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One Response to “Reviewing the NEP: Who should know better?”

  1. Sean says:

    “too little rational discussion” is much more fitting than “truly Asia”. The troubles that ushered in the NEP were not caused by ‘Malays’ panicking because they suddenly realised they had some sort of genetic problem that made them ‘uncompetitive’, but because they realised here was a glaring correlation between wealth distribution and race which didn’t seem to be an inevitable feature of similar racial mixes in other places and at other times. The turmoil of 40 years ago had a rational basis, even if neither the events nor outcome exhibited much reason.

    All that the NEP is is an antagonistic bias – a ‘quick-fix’ response to the original problematic bias. It hasn’t really worked because it is a bodge, a kludge, a sticking-plaster, a work-around. It was never a solution, only a backlash. That it still has political currency 40 years later is a national shame.

    The NEP and everything associated with it has to go. We desperately need the ‘rational discussion’ that should have been ongoing since Merdeka. The 50-year problems of Malaysia must be tackled head-on for all our sakes. Open, rational discussion is the only opportunity to fulfil the respectable, rational ambition of Malaysia’s Rulers* from before Independence – to see the end of the curse of communalism:

    The difficulty of giving one community a permanent advantage was realised … The same view was expressed by their Highnesses in their memorandum, in which they said that they “look forward to a time not too remote when it will become possible to eliminate Communalism as a force in the political and economic life of the country“.

    That’s from Report of The Federation of Malaya Constitutional Commission 1957 (from, page numbered 71 (page 38 in my PDF viewer) under the head “The Special Position of the Malays”, end of para 163., emphasis mine.

    What the NEP should be replaced with as a very first step is a complete commitment to public sector transparency and freedom of reporting – particularly where contracts, licenses and conflicts of interest are involved. We must be able to trust each other as individuals again rather than accuse each other as crude stereotypes. If we apparently cannot trust a person, we must be able to accurately identify individuals – not stereotypes – who are letting the side down.

    Malaysia must do something to tackle the curse of stereotyping. It must enact some form of law against racial discrimination. The ease with which Malaysians are able to utter phrases such as “helping Malay Malaysians become competitive” and “bumiputera began to feel more confident about competing” is repulsive! Quite aside from the obvious nonsense that is “helping … to compete”, it’s a complete betrayal of anybody who might be habitually labeled ‘Malay’ or ‘bumi’ and who feels that they are as perfectly equipped to compete as any human being, anywhere. If any Malaysian should feel they are being unreasonably excluded on grounds such as racism, there must be a mechanism by which they can air their grievance and seek rectification.

    Who should know better? I back anyone who says ‘rational’ and who appears to be personally capable of employing selfless reason. We badly need a new debate, just so we don’t have to read beautifully presented quotations from a man who thinks that a ‘30% Race Tax’ is a rational prerequisite before the playing field problem can even be discussed. We need the freedom to read real newspapers with front-page articles displaying the same gaping portrait, but headlined “BLOODY NONSENSE!”, just to provide some context for the quotation for those who might be swayed by station and typesetting rather than reason. That seems perfectly rational to me.

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