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Malaysia in dire need of ‘another system’

Poverty is still evident in Sabah and other parts of Malaysia - Photo: srpoverty.org

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We need a new system to bring back more hope and confidence in the future and greater national unity, Ramon Navaratnam writes.

Most concerned Malaysians will agree with Nazir Razak’s clarion call “to have another system” during his talk to the Chevening alumni recently.

He called for three major reforms:

  • To referee political competition
  • To have a clear separation of business, government and politics
  • To introduce electoral reforms.

These reforms are not exhaustive. We can add many more essential reforms, including the revision, reform and even preferably the replacement of the old and outdated New Economic Policy.

The NEP was introduced by Nazir’s illustrious late father Abdul Razak Hussein, just after the tragic May 1969 riots. It was then the right policy and could have benefited our nation much more than it has.

I served under Razak, and we understood and found the NEP to be necessary and fair to all at that time. Poverty was to be eradicated regardless of race, and the restructuring of the economy was planned to be equitable to all.

But sadly, the NEP was later distorted in its implementation. Although poverty was reduced considerably, serious pockets of dire poverty still exist, especially in many parts of rural Malaysia and in Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and Terengganu. Now Malaysians in other rural and even many urban areas in our country are also surviving from hand to mouth.

The process of restructuring has also seen considerable financial abuses. This has led to so much cronyism, corruption and money politics and the callous wastage of public funds, as indicated in several auditor general’s reports and the press.

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The dreadful coronavirus has exposed this poverty and economic and financial mismanagement even more today.

Budget 2021 has highlighted growing budget deficits and rising debt, and it has appeared to be somewhat racial in its thrust. This is most unfortunate. The question in people’s minds is how long can we go on like this?

Another system – Reforms

Polarisation according to race and religion has increased. National unity has declined, and there is general despair in the country particularly over the ugly politicking taking place and ‘frogging’ (political defections) becoming the national political pastime!

So we need to reform the NEP and replace it with another system to bring back more hope and confidence in the future and greater national unity.

We need to follow up on Nazir’s proposal to establish a second national consultative council, as soon as possible. The proposals of this second council should not be confined to mainly economic policies but cover all aspects of our future development as Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia).

Malaysia Baru will have to outline our future aspirations. Do we want to be a Malaysia for ALL Malaysians or for only Malays and those who believe in ketuananship (Malay supremacy)? Should we not provide equal opportunities for all Malaysians, based on their basic needs and not on race and religion? The Malays will still benefit most from a fair policy!

In fact, these very policies were envisaged by the late Razak, and it will be a great tribute to his memory if his able and faithful son Nazir continues with the high standards that his father set for us all, as Malaysians first!

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With the Budget 2021 presentation over and the 12th Malaysia Plan in sight, and after 50 years of the NEP, it is timely that a second national consultative council be established to provide valuable inputs into the new five-year plan.

The government would have to hold wide consultations to prepare a new plan that has wide consensus and not be confined to a small group of experts who may not be able to strike the right balance for optimum socioeconomic growth and fair income distribution for all Malaysians.

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