A leader for all

TWO days before the 50th Malaysia day, at the Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, the Prime Minister launched a series of new Bumiputera economic empowerment programmes. The said programmes were aimed at assisting the Bumiputera community and enhancing their economic competitiveness. They include:-

- The injection of 10 billion units of shares for the new Amanah Saham Bumiputera 2;
- The building of more affordable homes for Bumiputeras;
- The additional RM1billion in loans for Bumiputera entrepreneurs;
- The setting of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the Government Link Companies (GLCs) on Bumiputera participation;
- The creation of Bumiputera development units (UPB) in every ministries
- The setting up of RM100million Bumiputera New Entrepreneurs Starting Scheme (Superb) to aid Bumiputera in starting up companies.

These announcements came as a surprise to many Malaysians as this is the Prime Minister we fondly know as the 1Malaysia Prime Minister, or the Prime Minister for all Malaysians.

This is the Prime Minister who promised us that no Malaysian will be left behind in our pursuit of the national agenda.

Having read the transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech, I find it difficult to digest some of the programmes announced.

 In his speech, the Prime Minister had made it clear that the Bumiputera’s standard of living have gone up where the Bumiputera’s monthly average household income have risen by almost 2,500% from the mere RM172 in the 1970s to RM4,457 in 2012.

Not only that, the Prime Minister also made it clear that the Bumiputera’s poverty rate had gone down from 64.8% in the 1970s to 2.2% in 2012 whereas the Bumiputera corporate company equity rate had risen from only 2.4% in the 1970s to 23.5% in 2012.

The Prime Minister had also made it clear that the Bumiputera professionals, especially those qualified as medical doctors, engineers and lawyers, had approached the percentages of the racial composition.

In other words, the Prime Minister is saying that unlike in the 1970s, the economic gap between the different communities has been largely narrowed down, if not completely eradicated.

An enormous success then.

Right now there are many in all communities who can ill afford to own homes and shares. There are also many of all races who are less competitive and who crave for the government’s assistance in starting up their own businesses.

A leader must know that poverty does not recognise race. It is an issue that cuts across the board and needs to be addressed.

Eradicating poverty and developing this country depends on the efforts and contributions of all ethnic groups. It is a collective effort of all Malaysians and thus whilst the government is trying to strengthen the competitiveness of the Bumiputera community, it must also strive to assist those in the lower income group of the other communities.

We need economic policies which are based on the social structure, as opposed to racial structure. We should continue efforts to formulate economic policies based on merits and the needs of the people, which are fair, just and equitable.

What the government does not need is to set race-based indicators on the Chief Executive Officers of the GLCs, nor the establishment of units in all ministries to look into the needs of any particular race, but to double up their efforts in the Economic Transformation Programs which seek to develop the country as a whole. Only then, we will be much closer to Vision 2020 and the ideals of the 1Malaysia concept.

The views expressed are entirely the writer's own
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