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by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Does MCA President Ong Ka Ting, Gerakan present and future President Lim Keng Yaik and Dr Koh Tsu Koon dare to support Penang EXCO member Dr Toh Kin Woon for speaking the truth that the NEP is only for the rich, elite and those close to BN leaders? DAP regrets that Ong and Lim have still not mustered the courage to raise this in Cabinet showing them not only to be politically gutless and boneless but lacking in principle by failing to follow up their words with deeds.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak dismissal of Dr Toh’s assertion that only those at the top had benefitted from the New Economic Policy (NEP) as unacceptable is not surprising. What is surprising is his admission that the NEP had created many opportunities for the non-Malays to the extent that many non-Malay corporate leaders had become rich.
DAP leaders had consistently opposed the NEP as a tool of BN’s “divide and rule” policy to maintain the status quo of BN. Using race instead of a needs basis, as a criteria in economic decision-making, providing assistance and opportunities would not help to promote national unity. Further instead of helping the poor, the NEP is used to enrich the elite who are not only Malays from UMNO but also non-Malays from BN.
There is no doubt non-Malay leaders from BN had benefited from the NEP at the expense of the ordinary non-Malays and poor Malays. BN can conveniently blame the non-Malays when the Malays are unable to enjoy the benefits monopolized by the top BN leaders.
For Najib to claim success for the NEP in reducing the poverty rate from 50% in 1970 to 5% now ignore the problems of high income inequality and relative poverty faced by Malaysians. Further the measurement of poverty is only nominal and ignores the real poverty suffered by urban dwellers. A mean monthly household income of RM 1,000 is considered to be above the poverty rate but is definitely the poverty level for families staying in big cities like Kuala Lumpur or Johor Baru.
At a time when many developing countries are rushing towards sustainable wealth creation and distribution, it is irresponsible for Malaysian leaders to be obsessed only by wealth distribution for the rich and ignoring the poor. That the United Nations Human Development Report consistently list Malaysians as suffering the worst income inequality between the rich and poor in South-East Asia is ignored. The Ninth Malaysian Plan (9MP) shows the share of income of the bottom 40% of the population declined from 14.5% in 1990 to 13.5% in 2004 whilst the share of the top 20% of the population increased from 50% in 1990 to 51.2% in 2004.
The time has come to recognize the weaknesses of the NEP introduced in 1970 that appears to be incapable of fulfilling its objectives to eradicate poverty and restructure society. Since it ended in 1990, any extension of the NEP is incompatible with the challenges of globalization but also not conducive to create a competitive, culture of excellence that also takes cares of the needs of the poor and disadvantaged.