Reported in Bloomberg, ethnic Malays have blown the opportunities given to them under the country's 36-year-old affirmative action policy and still need preferential treatment, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.
He added "The Malays have not responded to the efforts made by the government and because of that, the disparity remains. When you're coming up from behind to catch up, you have to run faster, you have to make more effort.''
Dr Mahathir is hinting that it may be difficult to dismantle the affirmative policy without causing the Malays to slip further. What is obvious is the government did not try to change the mindset of the Malays. Programmes should be aimed at making them more competitive instead of over dependence.
Some ethnic Malays failed to develop their own business expertise, choosing to sell to other races the government contracts set aside for them, or auction specially allocated permits to import cars, Mahathir said.
Still, pursuing the policy risks angering local Chinese and Indians, he said. Without it, Malays, who account for about 60 percent of the 27 million population, may struggle, he said.
"There's more than enough headway given to the Bumiputeras now,'' said Maznah Mohamad, a senior research fellow at the University of Singapore. She adds "The NEP has been reduced to a kind of charity scheme. That is not good for any economy.''
Malaysia is at the crossroads. It must decide now which path to take so that the country does not go through a downward spiral.