I BELIEVE that most concerned Malaysians will agree with the clarion call “to have another system” issued by Datuk Seri Nazir Razak in his talk at a meeting of Chevening Alumni recently. (Chevening is the British government’s global scholarship programme for future leaders.)
He has called for three major reforms: To referee political competition; to have a clear separation of business, government and politics; and to introduce electoral reforms.
But I am sure these reforms are not exhaustive. We can add many more essential reforms, including the revision, reform and even preferably the replacement of the old and outdated New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was introduced by Nazir’s late illustrious father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein just after the tragic May 1969 race riots. It was then the right policy and could have benefited our beloved nation much more than it has. I served under Tun Razak and we understood and found the NEP to be necessary and fair to all at that time. Poverty was to be eradicated regardless of race, and the restructuring of the economy was planned to be equitable to all.
But sadly, the NEP was later distorted in its implementation. Although poverty has been reduced considerably, there are still serious pockets of dire poverty in many parts of especially rural Malaysia, and especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and Kelantan and Terengganu. Now other rural and even many urban areas in our country have people surviving from hand to mouth.
There have also been considerable financial abuses in the process of restructuring. This has led to cronyism, corruption and money politics and the waste of public funds, as indicated by several Auditor-General reports and the press.
Also, polarisation along racial and religious lines has increased. National unity has declined and there seems to be a general sense of despair in the country, particularly over the ugly politicking
taking place and how “frogging” is becoming a national political pastime!
So we need to reform the NEP and replace it with another system to bring back hope and confidence in the future and greater national unity. We need to follow up on Nazir’s proposal to establish a second national consultative council as soon as possible. The advice from this council should not be confined to economic policies but should cover all aspects of our future development as Malaysia Baru.
Malaysia Baru will have to outline our future aspirations. Should we not provide equal opportunities for all Malaysians based on needs and not on race and religion? Everyone will benefit from a fair policy!
With the 12th Malaysia Plan in sight next year, and after 50 years of the NEP, it is timely that a second national consultative council be established to provide valuable input for the new five-year plan. The government would have to hold wide-ranging consultations to prepare a new plan that has wide consensus and not confine itself to input from a small group of experts who may not be able to strike the right balance for optimum socio- economic growth and fair income distribution for all Malaysians.
TAN SRI RAMON NAVARATNAM
Chairman, Asli (Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute) Centre for Public Policy Studies
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