This may be our last chance to restructure the economy to make it serve the basic needs and human rights of all our people, says Ramon Navaratnam.
Given the present rising anxiety regarding the spread of the deadly Wuhan virus, it could be easy to miss the growing concern and the rising doubts over the emerging Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV2030), which will be introduced in Parliament in the third quarter of this year.
The economic affairs minister’s advisor, Khalid Jaafar, has emphasised through a Bernama report (30 January), that the “SPV2030 was no way a raced-based policy, but a needs-based one, aimed at narrowing the economic gap in the context of income, irrespective of race”. He added that `“to say that the SPV2030 is a rehash of the New Economic Policy (NEP) was a misconception”.
Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, in his ministry’s latest report card, mentioned that his ministry had conducted 390 engagement sessions with various parties to prepare the 12th Malaysia Plan that will crystalise the implementation of the SPV2030.
However, despite theirs laudable efforts to explain the vision, serious, considerable doubt remains over whether it will be different and more progressive than the archaic and sometimes discredited NEP.
Those of us who helped design the NEP were happy it was meant to eradicate poverty regardless of race. It was implemented faithfully in the initial stages but soon got abused with uneven application and implementation. The non-Malays and many poor Malays felt left out and alienated. Thus, the economy did not realise its full potential. Neither did the NEP adequately achieve national unity in the later years of its implementation.
Questions and doubts
So the questions that loom large in the minds of many is whether the SPV will also have high aspirations – but end up with low expectations?
There is therefore a need for the planners and especially political leaders to:
- set up effective socioeconomic safeguards in the 12th Malaysia Plan to ensure that a basic needs policy is implemented fairly and properly
- ensure there will be efficient monitoring systems to assure the public more transparently that the government’s good policies are actually achieved
We must get the full support of all sectors of Malaysian society. This is a prerequisite for greater national unity and prosperity and progress for all races. No one should feel alienated or marginalised. The poor and the unfortunate will not grudge equal opportunities for all races who need equal and equitable treatment. Neither do any of our religions and values encourage unfairness.
Thus, I appeal to the government to publicise the principles of the SPV2030 and explain more fully how the vision would affect the poor, even before the 12th Malaysia Plan is presented to Parliament later this year. Only then will the present lingering doubts among all races about SPV2030 and its association with the NEP be removed.
Bumiputeras sadly still make up most of the poor in our country. We must help them advance further. But we must allow other poor Malaysians to move forward instead of stagnating and becoming anti-social and a drag to our economy.
While the income gap between the bottom 40% and middle-income 40% should be narrowed, surely we also have to narrow the income gaps between them and the top 20% of income earners in the country. How else can we have more equal opportunities in our country and more socioeconomic and political stability and stronger national progress?
Given the viruses of polarisation, racism and religious bigotry now plaguing our country, the SPV2030 could be the major cure to most of our national problems.
But it should not be like the divisive and debilitating NEP, which was often abused in its implementation.
This may be our last chance to restructure the economy to make it serve the basic needs and human rights of all our people, for a better Malaysia for all.