Monday, July 16, 2007

Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad on NEP

Snippets of his article in Malaysiakini:

It doesn’t need a political pundit to tell the nation that the New Economic Policy (NEP) is the legitimating ideology for Umno’s hegemony and legitimacy - and that the party now has trouble weaning beneficiaries off it.

Paramount to Umno’s consideration is the issue of 30 percent ownership of the corporate equity, as opposed to the twin-prong objectives of eradicating poverty and eliminating identification of race with economic activities.

It is the 30 percent rule for bumiputera participation that has ended in the ‘affirmative action’ being perceived, rightly or wrongly, as a ‘zero-sum’ policy that is working at the expense of other races....

Umno’s persistence of maintaining its own under-achievement, hovering at 18.9 percent corporate equity of the Malay-bumiputera - despite others claiming to the contrary - is mind-boggling and naturally smacks of their ‘sinister’ motive. The measurement, to make it worse, is shrouded in mystery, ending in endless dispute between advocates and critics.

The primary reason why the ‘redistribution strategy’ has failed is due to chronic inefficiencies, leakages, and unbridled crony capitalism and nepotism. Many bumiputera contractors are alleged to be mere rent-seekers (read cronies), spinning the contract out to non-bumiputeras in the infamous practice of the Ali-Baba partnership....

The rent-seeking activities of a few politically well-connected Umnoputras have denied the rights of a bigger pool of genuinely deserving Malay entrepreneurs and corporate outfits, which have to compete in a tilted playing-field within the Malay community.

Going by the UN Human Development Report of 2004 and after 37 years of NEP, Malaysia has become the worst country in income disparity between the rich and poor in Southeast Asia. The report shows that the richest 10 percent in Malaysia control 38.4 percent of economic income, against the poorest 10 percent controlling only 1.7 percent. The Malay suffers the greatest intra-ethnic income disparity.

Giving handouts and continuing rent-seeking activities to non-deserving entities, be they bumiputera or non-bumiputera cronies, and adding cost without increasing productivity in economic activities, can only spell doom for the nation’s future in the face of global competition.

Continuing the affirmative action for the ‘super rich Umnoputeras’ will eat badly into our national resources and produce deleterious knock-on effects on our nation’s integrity and competitiveness. Surely this cannot and must not be assumed forever.

The already capable Malays, after five decades of independence, must no longer be beholden to an ‘affirmative mindset’ that entraps them into an unrelenting ’crutch mentality’ and which prevents them from be truly competent, competitive and enterprising. We must not repeat our mistakes.

Otherwise, it will be ‘the Great March Backward’ for the nation.

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