MOST fair-minded and thinking Malaysians, especially those who are not Malay, will enthusiastically support the Group of 25 for their bold agenda for action to be taken by the Economic Action Council (EAC).
We would also want the EAC to act fast on its substantive and comprehensive Agenda for Action that has been provided by the group of Malay intellectuals and proven professionals who have contributed immensely to the development of Malaysia since independence.
Many thousands of non-Malays who also served our country faithfully would all like to strengthen the voice of our Malay brothers and sisters, who have boldly and patriotically come out with an Agenda for Action for the prestigious and dedicated members of the EAC to seriously consider and act upon.
As the G25 rightly and courageously points out, “there is no shortage of recommendations on the measures that Malaysia must take, to inspire confidence in the economy and enable the country to move out of the middle income trap and become a developed country”, “Similar hot issues for EAC to tackle” (The Star, Feb 20).
The main recommendation of the G25 pertains to the fundamental need to review the New Economic Policy (NEP). It’s now outmoded after 60 years of headstrong application during which time, it has been considerably abused.
After the initial creditably of achieving its many goals earlier, the NEP added to our problems by providing more opportunities for more corruption and the widening of our income disparities. This consequent unequal distribution of income and opportunities has also caused both intra- and inter-racial disparities. In fact, it can be argued that the present major concern over the high cost of living is largely due to the uncompetitive NEP policies and practices. All these have created more uncertainty for the future as well as national disharmony and disunity.
Hence, the G25 recommendation to reject race-based policies and adopt and effectively implement needs-based economic policies must be the first priority of the EAC.
All true and sincere Malaysians should welcome the continuation of affirmative action for the poor of all races. Only then will we have national unity and wellbeing and a better quality of life for all Malaysians.
The G25 proposal to reduce the role of government-linked companies (GLC) is most welcome. Many GLCs have been too protected and have crowded out the private sector, both bumiputra and the non-Malays. There could be new policies to include small and medium industries to work with the GLCs or we could disinvest some of the weaker ones altogether.
GLCs could be made more efficient, competitive and meritocratic so that the economy could be freed of some of the shackles to promote greater productivity and more competition. Non-Malays will also feel more inclusive in helping to realise the full potential of the economy.
Similarly, the EAC could devise ways and means to be more inclusive in the private sector where there is some dominance of the non-bumiputra.
The serious brain drain could also be reduced if more opportunities are given to all Malaysians regardless of race or elitism.
The education system will largely be responsible for our success or decline as a nation in the future. The recent dialogue organised by Asli showed the frustration expressed by many over the slow pace of education reforms.
There should be more teaching of science and technology, English and the arts and culture to produce more rounded and better equipped students to meet the challenges of the future. Religious teaching and the cultivation of good value systems are vital but they must be given the right balance and in reasonable proportion in terms of time and priority.
Foreign labour has been excessive, and the G25 has indicated that it is due to much lobbying by vested interests, and even corruption. So the EAC has to investigate this matter quickly and introduce some solutions to solve this long-standing decay in our society. Again, will there be the right political will to act fast?
G25 has an impressive agenda for the EAC to act upon and hopefully at a faster pace. I would only add a few more items even though there are many more to give.
1. The public service should be made more multiracial and multi -religious and better represented geographically. There could be more Sabahans, Sarawakians and orang asli in the public service.
2. Economic development should be more decentralised so that the poorer regions in the country and pockets of poverty could get higher priority for more rapid development. Local elections would help ensure better performance of local government.
3. The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals could be adopted as our underlying goals to enhance our quality of life on a consistent and long-term basis.
4. Extremism and bigotry of all kinds can undermine our socio-economic development and must be rejected stoutly from whatever quarters.
5. The UN Human Rights Conventions should be adopted soon to eliminate discrimination and improve our faith in our future
6. Our national institutions must be further strengthened. This would include independence of the judiciary, press and civil service, and religious freedom.
Obviously, the people know what they want and that is to build a united, strong and progressive country. The able members of the EAC know very well that it’s not the economy alone that needs improvement. Actually, it’s the whole socio-economic and political system and institutions that need to be reviewed and revised.
But the crucial question remains: how much is the EAC able do and how fast will it take to deliver, at least on the low-lying fruits and the higher priority issues that worry all Malaysians?
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
ASLI Center of Public Policy Studies
Did you find this article insightful?