“Give a man a fish, and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he learns a skill for life.”
– Fan Li (also known as Tao Zhu Gong; 517 B.C - 428 B.C)
Back to basics: let’s agree on need-based affirmative action
No nation that has ‘the haves and the have nots’ can do without affirmative action or positive discrimination. This is because equality amongst unequal favours the strong over the weak and acts powerfully to maintain the status quo.
Preferential treatment in areas of employment, education, and business were introduced to correct imbalances taking factors such as gender, race, colour, status, religion and national origin all over the world, from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa. In Malaysia, we had our New Economic Policy – NEP.
The debate in Malaysia pitting race-based policies with a need-based alternative is myopic and more political than rational. It fails to deliberate a wider definition for what we should consider as a ‘need-based’ approach, which racial factors can be one of many.
A need-based strategy must take into account both the generic and the specific. It is not enough to say that all that are poor must be assisted as we must not only cater to issues made visible through numbers and figures but must also address underlying historical socio-economic and socio-cultural issues. We need to also cater to the specifics.
Take for example the poor Malaysian Tamils displaced from the estates – they are totally uprooted, landless, without education and useful skills, and limited by communication barriers. Trapped in the cycle of poverty, they and their children warrant specific attention and support from homes to schools to jobs. Similarly, we cannot equate the urban poor with the rural poor. They may earn the same, but their challenges are not.
NEP’s successes were due to the non-myopic need-based approach being applied. We must continue the good work. To move forward, we need to deliberate, be more detailed, and continue identifying pockets of poverty that require need-based affirmative action. But first, let us agree on what is need-based affirmative action.
At zubedy, our programs draw strength from shared values and traditions. We believe that at heart, all Malaysians want good things for themselves and for their brother and sister Malaysians, simply because our nation cannot prosper as a whole if some of us are left behind.
Let us be, first and foremost, Malaysians.
Let us add value,
Have A Meaningful Chinese New Year