Shared prosperity is old wine in new bottle
Published on: Sunday, October 11, 2020
By: Datuk John Lo
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1970 to 2020 is exactly 40 years. Tun Razak introduced the NEP in 1970 after the 1969 racial riots. The official intention, inter alia, was social engineering, its main objective was to level income and fair wealth distribution. These were noble objectives and were meant to last 10 years. Prime Ministers after Tun Razak have produced variants of his NEP—-Tun M had 2 in his 22 years, National Development Policy in 1991 and National Vision Policy in 2002 [Warisan 2020]. 

Not to be outdone, Najib produced his version GTP in 2010. Tun M as PM for 2nd time, came up with Shared Prosperity Vision in 2019 which Muhyiddin has continued and which he spoke about on 29 September.

Najib’s plan was the most innovative and daring in concept which, if he has sufficient political courage, would have truly catapulted Malaysia into high income. He would have been the most significant PM. Alas, it was not to be. He developed cold feet and chickened out. Sad, very sad.

These visions are old wine 

in new bottle.

Also it is sad but true that this Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, like all previous visions/plans, is “flogging a dead horse”. The common narrative of all the PMs after Tun Razak to justify their respective NEP versions, is that after 40 years, the income disparity is still very significant. None of them has addressed the most basic question WHY? A correct assessment can only come about with an in-depth/objective study of the achievement or the lack of it. Successive PMs after Tun Razak, for political expediencies, have taken the easy out by hiding behind the reasonings that the bumiputras have yet to be equal with other races. 

They weaponised NEP as a political tool. It is in the national interest to seek out the truth cause. Continuing the same old narrative does not reflect well on these PMs nor is it fair to the bumiputras and the whole country. 

In sharp contrast, China has uplifted 800 million plus Chinese out of poverty in 40 years, created a middle class that is larger than the American population. In economic terms, China has achieved super power status and is the world’s 2nd largest economy. The World Economic Forum has predicted China will over-take USA in 2024. But Malaysia is still languishing in middle income with a great number living below poverty.,largestpc20economiespc20frompc201992pc20pc2Dpc202024.

The bumiputra government 

leaders are responsible for 

NEP’s below par performance. 

NEP has created small bumiputra elite who are ensconced in the comfort zone of NEP privileges and wealth, oblivious to the majority who are still poor, millions of them. Members of this elite control [a] All government machinery and procurements. [b] Civil service from top to bottom. [c] Government financial resources. [d] Annual budget, taxation and their disbursements. [e] All GLCs, including 42pc of KLSE market capitalization. [e] All institutions like EPF, Tabung Haji, FELDA etc. [g] 

All government monopolies in the country. [h] Banking and financial institutions. [i] Monetary and fiscal policies. [j] Education institutions and public universities. [k] Issuance of special licences and APs. These are papers which can bestow great wealth without work or capital. [l] Judiciary and armed forces. [m] Most important is Petronas which has produced hundreds of billions profits a year during good time. The list goes on. 

All these employ bumiputras almost exclusively [99.9pc?]. The bumiputra government leaders must have trillions of cash/assets at their disposal. Have they done a good job in the implementation of NEP? Why they are still mouthing the same old narrative and excuses. 

The small elite with guanxi with the right politicians are lucky, quite a few of them have become billionaires. However, little benefits have filtered down to the ordinary bumiputras. Bumiputra government leaders, nobody else, are responsibility for grievous fault.

The other aspect that bumiputra government leaders are responsible is the economic/investment return to the national economy and money that has been spent in the name of NEP since its beginning. The amount must have run into hundreds of billions since 1970, may be into trillions by now.

Immoral to blame others.

The bumiputra government leaders are being immoral to pin the blame on to other races who are suppose to be doing better. Instead, they should be leading the bumiputras to emulate their tenacity, determination and most of all, their mind set to face competitiveness and risk taking and for having done well despite total lack of government privilege and handouts. The bumiputra government leaders are also being immoral for hiding behind religious and racial bigotries for their less than satisfactory NEP performance. 

NEP in its present 

format is not sustainable.

This is clear as day light. More so now under present global/pandemic and domestic economic circumstances. A number of reasons for this. [a] NEP in its present format has reached the stage when there are just too many bumiputras for the government to keep dishing out privileges to. [b] The Malaysian economy is going through a traumatic phase in the on-going pandemic, long term decline of oil and increasing international opposition against oil palm consumption, the last of which is USA. [c] Government’s overall revenue is shrinking. Era of easy money pumped out from the ground has gone. [c] NEP implementation related corruption is still rampant. [d] In the final analysis, the Malaysian economy has done poorly in comparison with the Asian Tiger economies. [e] NEP has created an very huge income gap between the rich and poor bumiputras that is painfully obvious. [f] The bottom-line reality is Malaysia can never afford to continue giving privileges to 60pc of the population. This is simple logic. No country has ever become competitive globally and progress to high income with 60pc of its population not moulded in and willing to embrace meritocracy.

The government must cease throwing fish at the bumiputra, instead empower them to fish for themselves. The question is—- which PM has the political will to do this so that an economically stronger Malaysia can emerge.

Sabahan bumiputra are the worst off.

Sabahan bumiputras must ask these questions—- [a] what have the bumiputra government leaders done for them under NEP? [b] Why the poorest of the poor in Malaysia are Sabah bumiputras? [c] Why the richest bumiputras are all in W Malaysia? [d] Why so many Sabah bumiputras are having to seek employment in W Malaysia? [e] What have Petronas done for Sabah bumiputras? So many questions, all answers are pointing to Sabah bumiputras having been short changed big time. Bumiputras living way below poverty line can be found just a short drive from KK.

NEP must change to 

strengthen Malaysian economy.

The Share Prosperity Vision 2030 is a farce, a political charade like other NEP plans. It is a shield, a delusion for political leaders and small group of elites to perpetuate their political and economic empire. Had the bumiputra government leaders been sincere in implementing Tun Razak’s original NEP objectives, most if not all the bumiputras, including those in Sabah, would have been lifted out of poverty. 

Malaysia as a country and all Malaysians would have been much better off, the economy would have been much stronger if most of the bumiputras are in the middle class. They would have the spending power to keep the economy in high gear! There would have been a lot more cash flow in the economy.

I hope the bumiputra government leaders will stop this charade of “old wine in new bottle”. It has not worked well; it will never fulfil Tun Razak’s dream. They must ameliorate, come up with a really effective alternative NEP that can truly transform the economic status of all bumiputras, not the elite few.

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