Najib Has Set Us Back 40 Years

By Kee Thuan Chye
16 Sept 2013

Najib Razak shows once again that his actions are often driven by his own paramount desire to stay in power. He’s about to be challenged for the position of Umno party president soon or returned unopposed, a situation that will also determine whether he retains the position of prime minister. Most likely, from the look of things, he won’t be challenged, but he still needs to consolidate the reason he should stay on as president. So last Saturday, he abandoned his 1Malaysia slogan to announce a Bumiputera economic empowerment plan that is obviously designed to win him support from the ethnic community that patronises his party. He exposed his own contradiction and reaffirmed what we have come to see as his real belief – that he doesn’t care what means he uses as long as he achieves his end.

By his action, Najib also shows yet again that he is a flip-flopper. He has apparently forsaken his New Economic Model, which was introduced in 2010 to phase out the outdated New Economic Policy (NEP) in favour of affirmative action based on needs rather than race, and make Malaysia more competitive and investor-friendly. But now with the new Bumiputera economic empowerment plan – to which he is dedicating a whopping RM31 billion, to be dished out in the form of loans, contracts and programmes – it looks like he is reinforcing rent-seeking, which will retard sustainable growth.

By his action, Najib has set us back 40 years – to 1971, when the NEP was introduced. He has fortified the idea that there are two classes of citizens in Malaysia – Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras – thereby totally subverting his 1Malaysia stance. But whereas one of the stated objectives of the NEP was to eradicate poverty, Najib’s Bumiputera economic empowerment plan is not aimed at helping the needy. It seems to be providing crutches even for those who don’t need them.

Malay Economic Agenda Council CEO Nizam Mahshar is right in pointing out that the plan provides no courses of action or strategies, and no targeted outcomes. Is this perhaps deliberate? Is the money being pumped into the programmes meant to be loosely administered so that it can easily go to Umno cronies? And is the lack of targeted outcomes aimed at avoiding accountability?

Unashamedly, Najib declared that the new plan was a reward for the Malay community for supporting Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) during the last general election (GE13). Is it really a reward for the entire community or a reward for Umno cronies?

When he increased the price of RON95 petrol in early September, he said it was a necessary part of “the process of reducing the public’s reliance on subsidies”. Ironically, his Bumiputera economic empowerment plan is perpetuating this very reliance on subsidies, but on the part of Bumiputeras.

Of course, this suits Umno fine, because as long as the party drums it into the Malays that they cannot compete without assistance, they will have to depend on Umno’s largesse. And, consequently, they will continue to vote it into power. But, at this rate, how will the Malays – who, incidentally, form the majority of the population – be able to progress on their own? And how will this affect the country’s productivity and goal of becoming a developed nation by 2020? With this kind of plan and this kind of subsidy mentality in place, do you think we can still make it?

I much doubt it. Najib’s action has effectively stopped Malaysia from moving out of its malaise. We will continue to lag behind because we can’t seem to shake off ethnocentric policies that blunt our economic competitiveness, enfeeble our human resources, curtail our efficiency. If he still wants us to believe that we can become a developed or high-income nation by 2020, he is fooling us.

He also spoke with a forked tongue when he tried to appease non-Bumiputeras by claiming that his new plan was made in consideration of all the races. He said it was meant to create new wealth so that all Malaysians could share the benefits. “We are doing what is fair, we are doing what is right, and we are doing what is equitable,” he said. “It means that we do not have any evil intent or prejudice against the other races.”

Yeah, right. His vocabulary needs to be re-examined. Or perhaps he meant that with the impending new opportunities, non-Bumiputeras would benefit from the forging of Ali-Baba partnerships like before, or from being sub-contracted to do the actual work for projects that inexperienced, ill-chosen Bumiputeras secure.

But, seriously, it would be hard for non-Bumiputeras to believe what he said. Most of them were already incensed that he used public funds to help him and BN win GE13 – by doling out cash to many individuals and groups. Now he is using public funds again – to reward the ethnic group that voted for his party. That’s a double whammy.

They would be further incensed that government-linked companies (GLCs) will have to set targets for Bumiputera participation, and CEOs of these GLCs will score high on their key performance index (KPI) if they fulfil these targets! We know what this could result in. To meet their quotas, the CEOs might just take in any Taib, Din or Haris. That would be counter-productive.

Besides, as MCA Youth Chief Wee Ka Siong has rightly pointed out, GLCs have developed to where they are from the taxes paid by all racial groups. “Therefore, there should be no racial distinction in the performance of GLCs … If skin colour and ethnicity are the only priority, this will cause GLCs to become uncompetitive.”

Wee should have been harder on Najib and said that there must be no racial distinction whatsoever, full stop. It doesn’t do this country any good to divide the races; in fact, it causes harm. As it is, on social media, non-Bumiputeras are calling Najib names and hurling abuse at him because the taxes they pay are being channelled towards upholding an ethnocentric cause that is not only divisive but also makes them feel like second-class citizens.

I would, however, suggest that instead of repeating this decades-old claim, non-Bumiputeras might want to pause and consider which is the group that is actually second-class – the one that is being marginalised, or the group that’s being told that it can’t compete on its own. I think in all fairness to everyone, Najib should be treating Bumiputeras with respect and telling them that they can succeed without special assistance. In doing so, he would not only be forgetting about his own ends; he would really be helping his own race and also his country.

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 7:51 pm

    ‘ … GLCs have developed to where they are from the taxes paid by all racial groups. “Therefore, there should be no racial distinction in the performance of GLCs … ‘

    Many Malay groups have said in the past that the GLCs all belong to ‘them’, the Malays and the non-Malays or non-Bumis should butt out. The government seems to share this idea as well that they all belongs to the Bumis that it can and should play a major role in assisting the Bumis.

    So what then is the Bumi’s stake and control in the country’s economic pie? Is it still 22% or is it over 50% ? No one in government has ever come out with their methodology as to how these percentages are calculated that it can be replicated to confirm the figures.

    Why are the taxpayers’ money being used to support Utusan to pay for the millions in damages and fines it has been ordered to pay the many party who have sued them successfully for defamation and what not ?

    As it stand and as Najib’s ‘New Ethnocentric Model 2013’ looks very likely to lead the country towards further ruin on all fronts with lack of confidence and productivity. Has our Finance Minister and his advisers gone berserk ? Is a further DOWNGRADE be coming soon? Will petrol prices be upped again soon to pay for these UMNO B sins and excesses? Paul Low, where are you hiding today ?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:15 pm

    Najib’s action has effectively put a PERMANENT lock on the middle income trap to stop the country from freeing itself from the trap.

  3. #3 by Godfather on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:26 pm

    Malaysia, truly malaise.

  4. #4 by Godfather on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:28 pm

    The crutch system just got an upgrade from Najib. And the cost is being borne through majority contribution from the non-Malays.

  5. #5 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:31 pm

    In one swoop, Najib’s New Economic Model, 1Malaysia and “high income country” were reduced to no more than a farce.

  6. #6 by Di Shi Jiu on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 8:42 pm

    Why don’t we treat Malaysians on the basis of their income levels and not their race or religion?

    Is it really that difficult?

  7. #7 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 9:15 pm

    Biarlah bumiputra economic empowerment memperkayakan mereka…bukannya boleh dibawa ke lubang kubur.kalau kekayaan itu halal, halal lah makan minum mereka, kalau kekayaan itu haram dan niat itu jahat, maka bersedialah di akhirat nanti…

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 9:42 pm

    The main problem with what Najib does with his New New Economic Policy besides its moronic name, is that its more of the same things that did not achieve what it promised. The fundamental problem is that the NEP itself is a declining marginal effective policy, it has been for a while. He can allocate RM300b or whatever and the result would still be they fall short – it will just lead to a declining growing pie that they STILL won’t get to their goal of percentage.

    What it ends up being is a waste – a waste they want to pay for by painfully removing subsidies and imposing higher taxes – THE VERY DEFINITION OF PRODIGAL..

  9. #9 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 9:55 pm

    Bumiputera economic empowerment plan ? Again ar ? How long more to go? All this so-called bumi power then and gradually more power now..this growing power sampai bila ni ?

    More like Umnoputera tongkat enhancement plan la..endless dishonesty

  10. #10 by Boleh444 on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 - 9:55 pm

    UMNO is sabotaging the Malays’ survival in the long run…with intensifying global competition and increasingly open economy, let’s see how long they can self insulated…

  11. #11 by Noble House on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 - 3:26 am

    A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul. This is what the Bumiputera economic empowerment plan was all about – there is no accountability, only politics!

    Our citizens and country have been hijacked and shackled by bad policy and bad politics. This nation has squandered away for years and billions of dollars in so-called affirmative plans funding under the disguise of the NEP. Yet, still today, the ordinary Malaysians are struggling the middle-income path with an escalation of prices and cost of livings; while our children have been tested to death, forced to regurgitate and at the end of the day they haven’t learned to do basic reading and math or much less learned to think under a dysfunctional education system. It’s a national shame.

  12. #12 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 - 5:38 am

    Finally, AhCheatKor has revealed his true color n joined Mooo as I Malay first n last, n am NO M’sian, just like Perkosa

    Now is d time 4 UmnoB kaki 2 sapu AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE n jiak ka liau, enriching themselves n cronies, under d pretence of looking after Malays/Bumis

    OPEN corruption under UmnoB-sanctioned racist policy (n they proudly barked 2 d world: we NO CARE if U like it or not; YES, we r ultra racists n opportunists going 4 $, n more $)

  13. #13 by rockdaboat on Thursday, 19 September 2013 - 3:56 pm

    After more than 50 years of independence and 30 years of affirmative policies, the Bumiputra still need empowerment today?

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