Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Apartheid and Protectionism, Internal Issues?

Written by johnleemk on 2:44:32 pm Jun 25, 2007.
Categories: , ,

Ah, another chapter in the neverending story of the Never Ending Policy (or as some still call it, the New Economic Policy). This time, the head of the European Commission's delegation to Malaysia, Thierry Rommel, has gotten in trouble for speaking some basic truths about economic policy.

Basically, if the BBC is telling the truth (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), Rommel labeled the faulty economic policies of the government which supposedly are meant to address the identification of race with socioeconomic function as nothing more than an excuse for "significant protectionism".

Rommel is basically speaking the truth. Once things have gotten to the point where firms refuse to do business with non-Bumiputra owned companies, it's really apartheid — and mind you, Rommel never touched on the racial aspect, just on the unfair protectionism of these policies which are no longer predicated on equality, but inequality.

Naturally, the establishment roared in anger. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak accused Rommel of making comments which could be "construed as trying to interfere in the internal administration of the country" (a rather equivocal condemnation, if you ask me, since it implies there are other possible interpretations of Rommel's remarks).

One minister (who the BBC left unnamed, perhaps to protect the guilty) went as far as to call Rommel's statement "arrogant and extreme". I guess the truth hurts, doesn't it?

For the life of me, I cannot see what is wrong with what Rommel said. How are Malaysia's trade policies solely confined to "internal administration of the country"? These are a crucial part of our foreign policy!

The US-Malaysia FTA has already been delayed by our protectionist economic policies, and the same looks to be happening with the potential for talks of a European FTA.

That our racial economic policies are protectionist and discourage foreign investment has already been recognised by our government, which acted to dismantle such barriers in the Iskandar Development Region. Why should we criticise Rommel if we ourselves have admitted he is right?

Rommel was later summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain himself, and he seems to have emerged unscathed. Those people at Wisma Putra probably know who is in the right and who is in the wrong.

There was no reason at all to jump over Rommel for his statement when we have already admitted that his contention is true. We have to face the reality of our unequal policies, and strive for true equality of opportunity.

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