In the News – Do away with Bumiputera agenda, prominent economist tells Putrajaya
BY ANISAH SHUKRY
Published: 2 January 2015
It is time Putrajaya shelves the Bumiputera agenda and focuses its entire effort on a national policy – one that will uplift all Malaysians regardless of race, says prominent economist Tan Sri Dr Kamal Salih.
The Bumiputera agenda has been the backbone of the Barisan Nasional (BN)-led government’s economic plans since 1969, its pro-Malay policies justified for decades by the economic backwardness of the Malays as a result of the British colonial policy of divide and rule.
“Putrajaya must go for the national agenda and create a national policy that is more inclusive. And if it does that properly, and avoid the pitfalls of the past, then I think it can achieve its economic goals, without having this red flag of being a ‘Bumiputera agenda’.
“If you are trying to reduce inequality and reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, the beneficiaries will be largely Bumiputeras anyway.
“So why go through the pain of being accused of being racist, when you can achieve the same goals without being racist?” Kamal, an adjunct professor of Economics and Development Studies at Universiti Malaya, told The Malaysian Insider in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.
Last November, the New Straits Times had reported that the government had spent RM46.5 billion to boost the Bumiputera economy through 23 programmes since September last year.
Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit (Teraju) chief executive Husni Salleh, who is also Bumiputera Economic Council (MEB) secretary, said that all 23 ministers, secretaries-general and GLCs now have key performance indicators on Bumiputera economic programmes, monitored by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
At last year’s Umno general assembly, the party’s deputy president, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, had proposed that a “new” National Economic Policy (NEP) be created to turn the Bumiputera economic agenda into a national agenda.
However, Kamal, who has dedicated his career to policy research, noted that inequality was more prominent within ethnic groups, rather than between them, and poverty could no longer be defined along racial lines.
“Ethnicity is no longer the basis for inequality.
It has now become (defined) by income and the disparity between the rich and the poor, the gap between the CEO and the ordinary worker. So the whole thinking must change.”