New BEE is from same old mould by Zainah Anwar - The STAR
Making progress?: Bumiputras employed in the professional and management category have outstripped Chinese and Indians, while those qualified as doctors, engineers, and architects are almost proportional to the country’s racial composition.
There is need for a thorough evidence-based review of Malaysia’s affirmative action policies that began with noble objectives 40 years ago.
THAT the New Economic Policy has succeeded in eradicating poverty and eliminating the identification of race with economic function is not disputed. Malaysia’s poverty rate has plummeted from over 50% in the 1970s to only 1.7%, according to the 2012 Household Income Survey.
Bumiputras employed in the professional and management category have outstripped Chinese and Indians, while those qualified as doctors, engineers, and architects are almost proportional to the country’s racial composition.
Similarly, bumiputra corporate equity has gone up from only 2.4% in the 1970s to 23.5% in 2011, and according to other measurements, even higher.
These are all laudable achievements. No one is questioning the twin objectives of the New Economic Policy.
However, the debate today remains how best to achieve these objectives in the context of a more globally competitive environment, persistent income inequality over the past 10 years, growing intra-ethnic income inequality and other divides such as rural/urban, and peninsula Malaysia/Sabah-Sarawak.
Given these inequities and the rising intra-ethnic income inequality among the bumiputras and between Malay and non-Malay bumiputras, most of whom live in Sabah and Sarawak, isn’t it time for the Federal government to start addressing the needs of poor bumiputras through a differentiated approach?
Can an affirmative action policy targeted at bumpitras continue to treat this ethnic group as one homogenous community when data show increased intra-ethnic inequality as one outcome?
Should a policy designed to build national unity from the ashes of May 13, 1969, continue on the basis of ethnicity when this has resulted in increased communal tensions and undermine social cohesion?
What should be done?
Many Malaysians believe the unexpected announcement of the Bumiputra Economic Empowerment (BEE) programme was more of the same and politically motivated to appease Umno’s own Tea Party hardliners in the run-up to party elections.