Execution is key to congress success but questions remain

PUTRAJAYA: Besides concerns that it is not inclusive, another issue plaguing the Bumiputra Economic Congress 2024 is questions about how its well-intentioned ideas will be executed.

As succinctly put by one of the congress’s headliners, Tan Sri Noor Azlan Ghazali (pic), on the last day of the congress: “What is most important is what happens on Monday.”

A former university vice-chancellor who has been involved in countless meetings on government policies, Noor Azlan, was referring to whether any of the congress’s findings and proposals would actually be acted upon by the civil service after the congress ended yesterday.

“We have held eight congresses in the past and come out with countless papers and reports. We cannot just bring up the same things again and again and yet things stay the same,” Noor Azlan told the audience when summarising the findings of his working group on education reform.

“What is important is what happens on Monday, after the congress. We need to ensure that these things are followed up on.”

Noor Azlan’s concerns have been echoed by other experts and Malay business groups that have studied pro-bumiputra policies over the past 50 years.

They have reportedly said that the lack of a specific mechanism or system to monitor these programmes and measure their impacts is one reason why targets such as building a capable and competitive bumiputra commercial class have not been met.

After 50 years of training programmes and funds, only 39% of the 1.2 million firms registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) as of January 2023 are bumiputra firms, according to data presented at the congress.

Currently, programmes to help bumiputra small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are spread over 16 ministries and agencies, and groups such as the Malay Economic Action Council have said that they all need to be streamlined.

The unity government attempted to allay these concerns when it announced that a permanent secretariat would be set up at the Rural and Regional Development Ministry to monitor the implementation of this congress.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the secretariat will also be assisted by another monitoring unit under the Economy Ministry.

Mara chairman Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said the implementation of the bumiputra agenda is being given added heft as the government has formed a Bumiputra Economic Council headed by the Prime Minister.

“I am happy that the government is taking the agenda very seriously,” Asyraf Wajdi said.

But despite these announcements, Noor Azlan’s parting words during his session seemed to be a better indicator of whether these new entities will actually “institutionalise” the bumiputra economic agenda.

“Let’s see if the agencies tasked with these programmes actually call us experts back to discuss our ideas further,” he said.

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