Monday, June 25, 2007

Think out of the box, M'sia

It is my belief that it is often wise to let others do the talking sometimes and just listen or in this case here, to borrow the knowledgeable eloquent writer's writing. James Wong is a truly remarkable guy whose intelligence is undoubtedly apparent. His adoring supporting electorate obviously appreciates his compassion, fair-mindedness and understanding of many Malaysian issues and his compassion for all strata of society is admirable.

Personally, I have also come to the conclusion after much reflection on the NEP, that it ought to be scrapped and the playing field be leveled like in Singapore. Even while I was in Canada, Malaysia was ridiculed by MBCs (Malaysian born Canadians), Singaporean Malay and Chinese friends and others because of the slow pace of its socio-economic development and the discriminatory policies that were (and still are) in force here. 'Why', they were questioning me, at that time in the late 1980s 'are there so many Bumiputra nouveau riche on one hand and so many more impoverished Malaysians of all races after all these years since the NEP was introduced years ago'?

Now, Malaysians are told the bad news that the target of 30% has even fallen further behind despite the more convincing private conclusions of a reputable Malaysian NGO that the 30% has been breached to a higher figure, well over 45%.

Well, since the government thinks the figure cannot be reached and keeps rolling back the deadlines for it to end, it should rethink about having it anymore, more so when there appears to be strong evidence the policy was born out of unholy self-serving human interests.

I need to mention that the last time I posted a critical letter that touched on the NEP, written by a wise Singaporean Malay, I received an overwhelming response from angry and disappointed Malaysians all over the world (some of the many brains I've heard who emigrated overseas in disgust), all of whom supported the good doctor's comments, telling Bumiputras to awake and stop being spoon-fed for so long in today's competitive global world.

The following article appeared in the Malaysiakini blog today.

NEP under siege
James Wong Wing On
Jun 25, 07 12:01pm

The race-based affirmative action programme in Malaysia known as the New Economic Policy (NEP) has always been controversial, both in its underlying ideology as well as implementation or delivery, since its inception in 1970.

On one hand, the domestic debate has deepened with the publication of Dr Kua Kia Soong’s May 13 – Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969.

The book suggests that the NEP and other purportedly pro-Malay policies were instituted by a class of nascent “Malay capitalists” whose political executives in the state apparatuses had no compunction in “orchestrating” the racial riots in May 1969 to achieve their objective of primitive accumulation (of capital).

The purportedly pro-Malay NEP has also come under increasingly critical evaluation and scrutiny by many ordinary Malays who feel that the policy has only benefited a tiny segment of what is now cynically known as Umnoputras or the elites closely connected to the ruling Umno.

Then, there are also economically and socially successful Malays who opine that, like it or not, the NEP has to be fundamentally reviewed, if not abolished overnight, for Malaysia to be integrated into the mainstream of the regional economy and to cope with the process and challenges of globalisation, especially in terms of labour productivity and capital competitiveness.

Seen in this light, the domestic configuration of forces that are critical of, or opposed to, the unreformed and indefinite continuation of the NEP has changed not only in terms of ethnic composition but also in sheer number.

In other words, the hardcore supporters of the NEP have now been increasingly isolated even within the country as compared to earlier periods.

New configuration

It is within this new context that the row between the Umno-dominated Malaysian government and the top envoy of the European Union (EU) to Malaysia Thierry Rommel occurred.

Rommel has come under fire from top leaders of the Umno-dominated government, including Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, for reportedly saying in public that the purportedly pro-Malay NEP, which practices “significant protectionism” does not provide a level playing field for foreign companies. He has been accused of “interference into the domestic affairs of Malaysia.”

According to Syed Hamid Albar, Malaysia is to send a protest note to the European Union over Rommel’s reported remarks on the NEP.

Meanwhile, Rommel has clarified that he did not call for the abolition of the NEP and merely observed that the existence of the NEP has a bearing on the EU-Aaean FTA negotiations and he is willing and ready to hold dialogue with the Malaysian government.

Whether Rommel has violated the diplomatic principle of non-interference into a hosting country’s “internal affairs” is certainly debatable but what is now true is also the fact that, like it or not, the NEP has come under even greater international scrutiny for elements that are deemed to be obstructive to free trade and detrimental to the open market.

Besides the EU, the Bush administration in the United States is also believed to be “very unhappy” with the Malaysian government which has slowed down the US-Malaysia FTA negotiations considerably because of the latter’s concern for the FTA’s implications or repercussions on the continuation of the NEP within Malaysia.

In other words, there is now no room for the defenders of the NEP to pit the EU against the US, or the US against the EU in the classical balance-of-power game.

So, it is quite clear now that the NEP is not only opposed by an increasingly large number of Malaysians within the country on the grounds of racial discrimination, intra-Malay class bias and inefficient allocation of public resources, but it has also come under more and more critical scrutiny from the US and EU, two largest economies of the world, for its protectionism and close market.

In short, the NEP and its supporters are truly besieged by a new configuration of internal and external forces for change and reform.

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