MTEM calls for clear direction and goals after Bumiputra Economic Congress

THE Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM) says the recent Bumiputra Economic Congress shed light on the economic state of bumiputras, showing a decline that runs contrary to the perceived progress of the community.

MTEM senior fellow Ahmad Yazid Othman says a focused approach with defined objectives and stakeholder involvement is essential to ensure meaningful progress.

Below is his statement in full:

THE recent Bumiputra Economic Congress, also known as the Kongress Ekonomi Bumiputra 2024, provided a platform to address the economic concerns of Malays, Orang Asli and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

While it showcased the government's acknowledgment of these issues, it also shed light on the worsening economic state of bumiputras, contrary to perceived progress.

Findings presented at the congress by various clusters, highlighted alarming statistics, validating past statements and research by the Malay Chambers of Commerce Malaysia (DPMM) and MTEM.

Only a single bumiputra company was listed in the past three years, with disparities evident in professional sectors like legal and accountancy.

Median wages lag significantly behind the Chinese community, and bumiputra companies struggle with listing, asset creation and value addition.

Moreover, the lack of infrastructure in bumiputra areas hampers their participation in the digital economy.

Resolutions proposed at the congress ranged from pragmatic to generic. While some – like mandatory procurement of halal products from bumiputra manufacturers – hold promise, others lack specificity and actionable plans.

The need for comprehensive policies addressing education, wages, equitable opportunities and private sector involvement emerged as key themes.

However, recent events cast doubt on the commitment to bumiputra empowerment.

The decision of a GLC to award a contract to a non-bumiputra company, when there are many competent bumiputra companies available, shortly after the congress raises questions about the sincerity of efforts to uplift bumiputra entrepreneurs.

This is just one of many examples of the gap that needs to be reduced between reality and aspirations.

Furthermore there are still policies and decisions that disadvantage bumiputras in government procurement and GLC acquisitions as of today.

To ensure meaningful progress, a focused approach with defined objectives and stakeholder involvement is essential.

Key goals should include raising wages to achieve living standards for all Malaysians and setting ambitious targets for bumiputra economic contribution to the Operating Surplus and GDP per capita.

As an example of a target: 50% of the country's Gross Operating Surplus (GOS) must be from bumiputra businesses, excluding GLCs, in 2035.

We ask the government to make it clear as the first major announcement to declare our true north or overarching goals post-congress that will set it the direction and tempo of the monitoring council based on the 10 clusters.

1. That 90% of all Malaysians have a living wage by 2035; and

2. Bumiputra GDP per capita is set to achieve 70% of national GDP per capita by 2035 (Chinese GDP per capita is 140%).

In conclusion, the success of the congress hinges on translating some rhetorical motherhood statements into actionable policies with measurable outcomes.

With concerted efforts and genuine political will, Malaysia can embark on a path of inclusive prosperity.

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