Time for needs-based policies
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has made his first and most detailed clarification of the new 2050 Transformation National Plan (T50) since he announced it in his 2017 Budget Speech on October 21.
However, his speech at the closing of the National Integration Convention at Universiti Technology Mara on Nov 10 was also surprising and perplexing.
The T50 announcement is surprising for the following reasons.
1. It was suddenly sprung on us all.
2. It’s so long term, covering another 30 years.
3. The T50 economics appear to be the same or similar to the essential elements of the New Economic Policies of the 1970s introduced by the PM’s late dear father, Tun Abdul Razak.
Najib is right in saying that the main core of the country must still be the Malays and bumiputras, Malay as the national language and Islam as the religion of the Federation and the Agong as Head of State. These principles have been the basis of the national consensus and, as Najib has said, “if accepted, would make it easier for us to move forward.”
That is why our country and national cohesion and unity have developed relatively well and we have progressed so far since Merdeka. But we could have been more successful if there was more balanced implementation of these very principles that are enshrined in the Constitution.
For instance, many non-Malays feel that poverty eradication has not sufficiently covered the principle of “regardless of race” in the implementation of the NEP’s poverty policies. Many non-Muslims also feel marginalised in the practice of their religions.
These discomforts and sense of injustice are shared in all parts of the country.
In Sabah and Sarawak, the people often feel deprived of more balanced allocation of federal funds to reduce the deep pockets of poverty and underdevelopment in their state.
The PM rightly says that for the T50 , “we should not let the Malays and the bumiputras be left behind” and that the “empowerment of the bumiputras is a national agenda and one of the major successes of the country was national unity.”
No one denies this noble goal. In fact, what needs to be stressed now is the remarkable progress the Malays in particular have made through immense government policies, opportunities and aid given liberally to them since 1970 up to now.
The Government should emphasise this outstanding progress made by them.
It’s perplexing that after nearly 60 years of independence, we are still thinking about race economics and not Malaysian economics.
In fact, to survive and progress on a sustainable basis, we should phase out race-based socio-economic policies and move more firmly towards socio-economic development and progress based on basic needs regardless of race and religion.
What happened to the New Economic Model that the Government considered seriously but has not been fully implemented yet?
The T50 should seek a higher plain of national unity rather than promote, even inadvertently, national disunity and socio-economic and political regressivity.
The PM mentioned that he found in China “a hunger for success and that if we are in our comfort zone and too easygoing, we will lose out to the 1.3 billion Chinese.”
That is true but how can we hunger for success when we still have so much pampering, protection and preferences for so many Malaysians? How come we are so slow in promoting English and our mother tongues in all our schools?
The perception of unequal treatment based on race and religion has to be tackled boldly if the continuing brain drain and capital outflows and lack of the sense of belonging are to be effectively arrested.
The outdated NEP and its many weaknesses, which have adversely affected both Malays/bumiputras, non-Malays and non-bumiputras, must not be allowed in the new T50 policies.
The announcement on the National Transformation T50 Plan is most welcome but the content and direction must be fresh, relevant for the future, dynamic and sustainable.
It should recognise that race and religious economics should be completely phased out in the next, say, 10 years.
T50 should aim to promote and perpetuate more needs-based economics related to better education, more meritocracy and competition and the rejection of crony capitalism and corruption.
Only then will there be full public support for the new policies. It has to based, as the PM says, on national consensus.
Article published in The Star.