Ak57\’s Weblog

Thoughts and opinions on Malaysian news, its people and its culture

NEP’s Twilight Years

The goal of the New Economic Policy (NEP), or Dasar Ekonomi Baru (DEB), was to eradicate poverty by redistributing wealth among the three major races in Malaysia – Malays/Bumiputras, Chinese and Indians. This was noticeably done by offering benefits to Bumiputras, akin to affirmative action. Some of these benefits are:

  1. Priority placement in universities (ethnic quotas)
  2. Discounts on housing loans
  3. Loans/Mutual funds available only for Bumiputras, or discounted for them
  4. Minimum percentage of equity owned by KLSE companies must be by Bumiputras
  5. Many government projects to be given only to Bumiputra owned companies

Unfortunately in the almost four decades since this policy has been implemented, all it has accomplished is:

  1. Redistribute wealth from other races into a minority of uber-rich Bumiputras
  2. Create a superiority complex among these uber-rich Bumiputras
  3. Encourage laziness/laid-back attitude among some Bumiputras because they don’t have to work as hard as other races to become wealthy
  4. Create the perception among non-Bumiputras that Bumiputras aren’t very smart, probably owing to the laid-back attitude (I’m not kidding, I have seen and heard this mentioned many times)
  5. Ferment unrest among other races due to the economic disadvantages of not being a Bumiputra
NEP #1

Personal Experiences

I have never made use of my Bumiputra benefits:

  1. I have never bought a house nor do I see myself buying one in the near future
  2. I do not own any Amanah Saham shares or taken the special Bumiputra-only loan that allows me to buy them at a profit (yes, it is a loan that pays for itself)
  3. I have not registered my company with the Ministry of Finance in order to gain access to government tenders
  4. I was offered a job once based on my Bumiputra status alone – the company didn’t even want to interview me! They merely wanted to fill their quota
  5. I once had a boss that constantly complained about how useless I was to him, because I did not look like a Bumiputra and was considered (by him) to be ‘not good enough’ to get government contracts
  6. Many non-Bumis automatically assume I am not very bright and act incredibly surprised when I prove them wrong, quote, “I never thought Malay could do that!”
  7. Despite them knowing about these facts, I still get some occasional verbal abuse from non-Bumiputra friends about how much they suffer because of people like me

Looking at this list now I must admit I seem rather silly. Had I taken advantage of the personal/business loans I would be much better off. Sadly I never really had the means to get started on the loan due to hovering in the lower middle class income range, and also because of my anger at being accused of being another free-loading Bumiputra. At least I can honestly retort that I never claimed any Bumiputra benefits 🙂

Enter PKR

When Keadilan was formed back in 1999 I was quite happy to be a part of the Lembah Pantai branch. During our early meetings I approached most of the members privately to discuss my idea to either phase out Bumiputra benefits, or to award benefits based on income level instead. Both approaches were supported 100%; the race of the listener was not an issue. I felt great, because prior to coming into Keadilan whenever I had mentioned this idea to Bumiputras they would get really angry.

NEP #2

In 2004 I was not able to take part in campaigning, though I did manage to look at the party manifesto and saw the dreaded phrase, ‘Abolishment of NEP’.

Why dread?

Take your tv remote control for example. Imagine if one day someone were to tell you they were going to take away your remote if you vote for them. How every time you want to change the channel, you would have to walk across the room to your tv set, twiddle some knobs and walk back.

I felt that the trick would be to slowly move the remote further and further away, thereby developing the capability of being able to run over to the tv directly. That’s the whole point of phasing out. This phrase in the manifesto is a sure vote-loser I thought. NEP needs to be phased out, not abolished!

NEP #3

The Threat of Abolishment

But who really fears the removal of NEP (i.e. economic Bumiputra benefits)?

  • The uber-rich Bumiputras, because it stops them from effortlessly becoming even more rich
  • The middle class who are currently gaining from it
  • The Bumiputras who view NEP as a shield that ‘protects’ them from economy controlling non-Bumis

However the poor and lower middle class (borderline poor) have not benefited from it. The economic gap between the uber-rich and the rest of the people is incredibly large. Unfortunately for the ruling party (many of whom are the uber-rich mentioned), the poor form the majority of voters in many states which is why during PKR’s recent campaign you see they spent most, if not all their time wooing the poor voters.

Unlike the 2004 Election, in the 2008 Election PKR had the Malaysian Economic Agenda (MEA), a replacement for the NEP that awards benefits based on merit (like income level) rather than race. With this replacement policy in hand, no voter could fear the statement of ‘Abolishment of NEP’.

Now with Kedah, Penang, Kelantan, Perak and Selangor in Opposition hands, the NEP is in serious danger of disappearing. Small wonder then that UMNO staged protests against it in Penang and Selangor, while using their own media viz. the mainstream media to play up the issue.

Articles related to the protests:

Malaysiakini: UMNO holds one hour protest in Komtar (link)
Malaysiakini: Penang rally, police warn ISA will be used (link)
NST: Rumour-mongers get ISA warning (link)

BN’s control of the mainstream media has given them an advantage because they can suppress any information on the MEA. But with five states in their hands the Opposition parties have proven that control of the media no longer gives total control over information, so this anti-NEP movement is bound to fizzle out soon.

Unless of course PKR amends the MEA to be merit and race-based, or makes other drastic changes to it. I think it is more likely BN will copy ideas from MEA and try to take credit for it.

While it is most doubtful that the Opposition parties would/could remove all the Bumiputra benefits overnight, we are definitely about to experience the end of the NEP. These twilight years should prove quite interesting 🙂

Advertisements

Written by ak57

March 21, 2008 at 2:31 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] this NEP backlash, it seems a good time for me to write my thoughts on the NEP. Suffice to say; if you champion NEP today you are championing […]


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: