FOR a long time, there has been growing concern over the need to revise or even remove the New Economic Policy (NEP) that was adopted in 1971 after the infamous May 13, 1969 riots.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had asked for the NEP to be revised to a needs-based rather than a race-based policy both in content and actual implementation.
Now, Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin has finally supported this major change to a needs-based policy. This is important as presumably he has the full backing of Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is close and mostly listens to Daim.
This public shift in policy thinking would be widely and strongly welcomed by most fair-minded Malaysians of all races and religions for the following reasons:
1. It’s inherently unjust and immoral to discriminate against some races because they are not Malay or bumiputra;
2. The poor are poor regardless of race or religion, hence any separate or different treatment will create and aggravate polarisation and disunity, and it has already done so; and
3. Malaysians who are poor will lose their patriotism and sense of belonging if they are not treated like equal citizens.
Now that Putra Jaya’s chief advisor Daim has spoken, when can we see a concrete plan for the introduction and schedule for implementation of a new needs-based policy?
It must not be just a matter of mere public announcements and the expression of good intentions without real follow-up action.
The change in our affirmative action policy has been long overdue. If indeed these needs-based affirmative action policies, which benefit the Malays and bumiputra mostly, are delayed in their adoption and distorted in their implementation, then great doubt and distrust will arise and spread across our country.
This will be bad, especially when there are rising recessionary trends all over the world and in Malaysia too.
It is wonderful that both Daim and Anwar have come out clearly to push for a needs-based economic policy. It will strengthen Dr Mahathir’s “prosperity sharing policy”, which he wishes to promote in our socioeconomic planning.
This needs-based plan must be reflected in Budget 2020 and the Economic Plans that follow. Most importantly, there should be a plan for implementing it that will definitely benefit the Bottom 40% of Malaysians of all races and religions in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. Then we shall all see less polarisation, greater harmony and stronger national unity sooner rather than later.
This revision of the NEP would benefit all poor Malaysians and would also be a fitting celebration of our 62th Merdeka at the end of this month.
Selamat Hari Merdeka 62.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Court of Emeritus Fellow/General Council Member.
Malaysian Institute of Management