Note : The moderator of this blog fully associates with the views expressed by Saudara Dr Jayakumar here.
On 14th September 2013, the Prime Minister announced a RM 30 billion package of programs to “empower” the Bumiputra population in the country who are still lagging behind economically. The data quoted by UMNO leaders is that the mean Chinese Household income is about 40% more than the Mean Bumiputra Household income.
The PSM accepts affirmative action as a valid and necessary policy option for Government. Poorer communities and the people marginalized by development should be helped by society. This is a moral imperative! The PSM also agrees that the upliftment of poorer communities cannot be left to “market forces”. We reject the notion that private companies operating for profit will somehow generate “trickle-down” effects that will alleviate the poverty of the marginalized sectors.
However, the PSM has serious reservations about the “Bumiputra Empowerment Agenda” recently announced by Dato Seri Najib because our experience in Malaysia has shown us that affirmative action based on ethnic criteria invariably benefits the better off groups within that ethnic group far far more than the poor in that community. There are now around 60,000 Bumiputra Class E and F contractors registered with the Government. It is quite likely that they will receive a larger portion of this RM 30 billion than the 2 million Bumiputra farmers in Sarawak and Sabah. Around 60% of Malay households have a family income of less than RM 2000 per month. It is quite likely that children from the 15% of Malay households with monthly incomes of more than RM 5000 will receive a far larger share of the RM 30 billion allocated for Bumiputras than the children from the bottom 60% of the Malay households.
Affirmative action based largely on ethnicity is not only unfair to the poor and the marginalized of other ethnic groups, it is also unfair to the poor in the same ethnic group as well. It creates a situation where the poverty of the poorer Bumiputras is used to justify allocations that ultimately will help the richest Bumiputras, and those closest to the people in power!
The government should embark on affirmative action to help marginalized groups – that is the responsibility of government. But the criteria for inclusion for these programs should be socio-economic status and not ethnicity. Only then will the targeted group – the poor, receive the main portion of the funds allocated. Such an approach that reaches out to the poor of all communities will have the added benefit of building solidarity among the ethnic groups and enhancing harmony in our multi-racial population. A RM 30 billion allocation would have gone a long way towards helping the poor in Malaysia as well as in building national solidarity and a common Malaysian identity!
It is indeed a pity that UMNO’s inability to think outside the racist framework will lead to the frittering of the rakyat’s RM 30 billion in projects and programs that will mainly benefit the cronies and the politically well connected Malay elite while creating a feeling of resentment and bitterness among the poor of all races! Najib’s announcement 2 days prior to Malaysia Day makes the Malaysia Day celebration and nation building a joke. It is clear that under the BN, racist politics will continue and a truly fair and equitable Malaysian society will never see the light of day.