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NEP: Time to face up to some hard truths

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Politicians must discard their extreme racial and religious views and selfish agendas so that we can come up with a policy to serve us well for the next 25 years, writes JD Lovrenciear.

Terence Gomez’s published thoughts on the New Economic Policy deserve frank, honest public discussion.

In his piece “Niaga ganti pendidikan punca gagal” (Berita Harian, 3 February 2019), the University of Malaya political economist has articulated his concerns well. Such open sharing of thoughts reflect patriotism and genuine concern for our nation’s future. And kudos to Berita Harian for publishing the piece.

Gomez is right in stating that the NEP, which began with a plan to empower the bumiputeras through education, gradually shifted to a business-centred approach.

And despite decades of implementing a 30% target for equity ownership in the corporate sector, we are left with apparently only 19% of the nation’s top 50 businesses being bumiputera-owned.

Hence Gomez’s questioning of the viability and relevance of the continuation of the NEP is both timely and urgently required if we want raise the quality of life for the bottom 40% of households in society.

Politicians must stop hiding behind the armour of racism if we are to correct the structural problems in the NEP.

The public must be given the democratic right to debate and evaluate the viability of the NEP without fear or favour and in the best interests of the nation’s progress.

We need to ask, among others:

Are the different ethic communities differently endowed in terms of DNA and orientation when it comes to the study of the sciences and arts? If so, how can we structure a national policy that specifically addresses such dispositions to enable the growth and excellence of each diverse community?

What are the fundamental causes that have led to the dismal performance in achieving the 30% target for bumiputera equity holdings?

Is corruption (both by givers and takers) between and within the various ethnic communities a recurrent and entrenched pattern? If so, how and what kind of policies need to be crafted to effectively fight this cancer?

If education is the most effective long-haul remedy to improve the plight of the bottom 40% of households, where have we failed in providing the most effective educational pathway for the low-income poorly educated masses in the country?

Or is the NEP a gross failure because it was used as a political power base, as a weapon, in the hands of scheming and unscrupulous politicians?

A developing country cannot become a developed nation if time and time again it keeps failing at redeeming and uniting its people.

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Malaysia needs to free itself from the widely peddled, blinkered view that we are a unique multi-racial and multi-religious nation, somehow different from the rest of the world, and so we need policies that may not rest well with what the United Nations believes or what other successful nations practise.

We need more honest, courageous, intellectuals like Gomez to step forward and lead public discussions on nation-building.

We need politicians to discard their extreme racial and religious views, to drop their selfish agendas, so that we can mould or re-invent a policy that can serve us well for the next 25 years.

When all Malaysians, irrespective of their racial or religious labels, can be treated as equal citizens of one nation, we may find better solutions and policies to improve our quality of life.

When we can build on the human capital of each community, the nation will become more resilient and ready to face the hard times ahead. Otherwise we will join the ranks of certain failed economies and collapsed states that dot the planet.

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