Monday, July 16, 2007

The NEP: Morally bankrupt and economically corrupt.

Here's a good one:

Muhyiddin Yassin has chided Barisan Nasional’s non-Malay leaders for failing to explain to their community members the necessity of having and supporting the New Economic Policy. Their fear of losing votes is an unacceptable excuse, he said.

Muhyiddin said non-Malay leaders had the responsibility to make their respective communities understand the policy’s spirit. "It is a collective policy that was agreed upon by the cabinet to address economic disparities within the country’s different communities and its aim is to unify.

"If the non-Malay communities cannot accept it now, then how was it accepted during (second prime minster) Tun Abdul Razak (Hussein’s) time by other non-Malay BN leaders?" Muhyiddin asked.
How was it accepted during Razak's time? May I suggest that it was accepted while standing over hot coals with the business end of a parang (machete) at their backs... ie. with the threat of even more communal violence carried out with the indulgence of the govt security forces (see The Making of May 13 1969)?

The UMNO viewpoint is carried by someone called Rais Saniman who writes to NST attempting to justify how Malaysia has benefited from the NEP. His argument for the NEP has 2 main thrusts.

1. Because the distribution of wealth and poverty in 1960s Malaysia was largely along racial lines, the solution is to re-distribute wealth (and by default poverty) forcibly along racial lines in 2007.
The NEP confronted the problem of extreme ethnic inequality directly after the racial riots of 1969 by the inclusion of the second thrust in order to create, gradually over decades, an ethnically-balanced economy which would erase economic function with race identification. In other words, to create Malaysian national unity in diversity which is the national ideology.
The argument is that Malays were poor, and that having policies to make them rich would turn this situation around. However, the problem with this economic-restructuring aspect of the NEP is that it is much too LOOSELY DEFINED.

If the problem is that Malays were poor, the solution CANNOT be to make a tiny percentage of Malays fabulously rich and a small group of politically-connected, middle-class Malays very wealthy... - so that the Malays (ON AVERAGE) as a group are as wealthy as the Chinese. The solution must go much deeper than that. The NEP as it is, leaves the majority of rural Malays as poor as they were in the 1970s while the Malay royalty, aristocrats and political animals have become rich beyond their filthiest dreams.

In attempting to close the gap between the Malays and Chinese, the NEP opens up a larger one within the Malays themselves (see Beware intra-community income disparity by Khoo Kay Peng in his letter to Malaysiakini). Indeed, it is within the best interests of the Malay elites to keep their poor kampung cousins as impoverished as possible, for as long as possible - so that the NEP can be carried out in their name for perpetuity (see Lesson 101: How to Justify Racial Discrimination.).

And the NEP also widens the income gap within the Chinese and Indians. That's because the middle class and poorer Chinese and Indians typically foot the bill for the NEP, but the rich, politically-connected ones actually benefit from the NEP's AliBaba leakages .


Therefore, if economic inequity or inequality is the problem... then shouldn't the solution be framed in economic terms? Like I said in sean-the-man's NEW NEP! - the fair and indisputable NEP solution should target Malaysians according to their economic status / circumstances and be blind to race. Why is this fair? Because if many Malays, as UMNO keeps saying, are truly impoverished and lagging behind the Chinese - an economic means-tested NEP solution will invariably and naturally focus mainly on helping those poor Malays, and much less so on the Chinese (who are supposed to be comparatively better off on average). The very definition of the solution itself guarantees that the poor Malays (the ones who really need the help) will be helped. Isn't this what needs to be achieved?

And the ideal NEP would stop at the middle class. Once the poor reach the middle class, they will not be helped. That's because as the middle class, they can look after themselves and pursue their dreams on their own steam. A convenient but important by-product of this 'middle class' focus would be to categorically deny any "assistance" (read: plunder and corruption) to the rich (ie. the Tunkus, Tan Sris and Datuks). No more "bumiputra discounts" for multi-million ringgit bungalows purchased by the Malay elite, at the expense of non-bumi terrace house buyers.

In my view, any argument in support of the NEP which does not acknowledge the innate superiority of an economic mean-tested solution, is a worthless argument... without any merit nor moral worth whatsoever. At best those arguments advocate a sub-optimal solution. At worst and in all truthfulness, they are nothing but excuses to perpetuate a race-based, rent-seeking hegemony.

2. Rais Saniman goes further to say:
What were the legal and moral foundations of the second thrust [economic restructuring in favour of the Malays]? This is the well known Social Contract of 1957, where one million citizenships were given at a stroke of the pen in exchange for the non-Malays to help the Malays economically, the Rukun Negara, and Article 153 of the Federal Constitution.
I have only one thing to say to that. The social contract that he describes is in fact FALSE and FRAUDULENT. The citizenship of Chinese and Indian migrants were in return for their acceptance of Bahasa Melayu as the official language (see The Real 'Social Contract'), and probably more so, in recognition of the fact that it was impossible for the Malays alone to win independence from the British.

3 comments:

NEP-otism said...

Give them crutches, they want wheel chairs. Give them wheel chairs, they want beds with life support system. Better beware of the life support system being unplugged!

Karan Vaswani said...

As an Indian living in the U.S., I was shocked to learn about Malaysia's bumiputera policies -- sounds a lot like old Jim Crow or the National Party's South Africa to me. Why don't the ethnic minorities unite and act as swing voters at the elections to force the repeal of these policies? Or generate worldwide media attention that embarrasses the government, gets it condemned for human rights violations, gets boycotts going, etc?

Anonymous said...

Karan,
I beleive you are not Malaysian hence your limited understanding on the fragile political situation in Malaysia. I suggest you open up the history books and read up before making baseless comments. I am a firm believer of capitalism and equality, but bear in mind that Malays were once marginalized, and the NEP is basically the Malay's right to affirmative action.
I would not expect you to understand this, but in my opinion, invading Iraq and backing the Israeli's continuous slaughter on Palestinians are in most people's minds, more detrimental to a government's stand on human rights.