Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

The New Economic Policy Has Failed, Why Continue It?

Written by johnleemk on 8:46:11 am Jun 11, 2007.
Categories: ,

Many figures in the Malaysian government are extremely keen on restoring the New Economic Policy (NEP). The infamous son-in-law of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Khairy Jamaluddin, has been particularly vocal in calling for its restoration as the "New National Agenda" (NNA, or Next National Atrocity).

Of course, the shrill shrieks of these men aside, it's a simple fact that the NEP was never gone. The corrupt practices and policies which formed its backbone for much of its implementation, especially in the post-Tun Abdul Razak era, have continued since the NEP's ostensible expiration in 1990. (Hence the moniker of the NEP being a Never Ending Policy.)

What is the justification of these leaders for continuing the NEP (not restoring it, as they would have it)? Well, the NEP has failed, so we must keep on implementing it!

If you did a double take at that, you didn't read me wrong. These men themselves admit that the reason they demand the NEP is that the sole metric they obsess about, a 30% share of public equity for the Bumiputra, has not been achieved. In other words, the NEP has failed, so clearly the NEP must be continued!

By any measure, any yardstick you use, the NEP has been a failure. Equity levels have stagnated since the "end" of the NEP in 1990. There are still Bumiputra starving to death in this country.

Meanwhile, there is still an immensely strong identification of race with socioeconomic function, something the NEP was explicitly supposed to tackle. The Bumiputra continue to be underrepresented in many spheres of our society (thus necessitating pseudo-apartheid charades).

A few people argue that we must end the NEP because its target goal of 30% has been reached. Perhaps this is true; I don't know, and I honestly don't care. As far as I'm concerned, the NEP hasn't done shit for the Bumiputra I know who need it most. I have former classmates who spend their Hari Raya Aidilfitri working in McDonald's.

If you insist on addressing the statistical issues, I suggest that most equity figures overstate Bumiputra participation in the economy anyway, since they consider several government enterprises to be Bumiputra-owned when in reality they belong to all Malaysians (since last time I checked the government was elected by and represented all Malaysians, not just the Buumiputra).

Since the NEP is so clearly failing, why the hell are we so keen on maintaining it? When you have a policy that isn't working, you put it out of its misery — you don't agonise over it in the intensive care unit and keep it on life support when it has been declared clinically dead.

I am all for expanding our anti-poverty policies. But I want them to tackle poverty amongst all Malaysians, and to uplift only the impoverished Malaysians — not the middle-class Bumiputra and non-Bumiputra who don't need such help (to say nothing of those obscene Bumiputra who claim a 7% discount on their RM1 million mansion).

Moreover, I don't want sexy but ineffective policies which create "towering Malays" or "Melayu Baru". I don't even want "towering Malaysians" or "rakyat Malaysia baru".

What I want are policies which subsidise education and healthcare, encourage small-scale but mass entrepreneurship, and ensure every Malaysian has an equal chance of being the best they can be.

That was the raison d'etre of the NEP. The NEP has failed. It's time to put it out of its misery and install a new policy regime which can live up to the NEP's lofty goals.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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