I received an email chain-letter the other day. The writer fumed about the various pro-bumiputera policies in place and the ever-shrinking share of non-bumis in Malaysia.
Titled “WAKE UP!!!” the email contained 55 assertions along the lines of “12% is what ASB/ASN (Malays Own banks) got per annum while banks fixed deposit is only about 3.5% per annum”, "99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by Malays”, “0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under 'Look East Policy'” (assertions reproduced here verbatim for context and to give an indication of the tone of the email. I have not confirmed the assertions)
The writer concluded with “FIGHT FOR YOUR OWN RACE”. I understand the angst, but believe we should step up from this “Us” against “Them” attitude. All Malaysians should work together to grow the economy for all, and a helping hand should be extended to those most in need.
It is an unfortunate fact that after 38 years of the NEP and its successor policies, bumiputeras are still, on average, the poorer section of society. The average bumi household earns RM2,711/month, Chinese RM4,437, Indians RM3,456 and Others RM2,312 (Source: 9th Malaysia Plan, data for 2004). If we believe in social justice and measures to help the poorest, then by design the policies will benefit bumiputeras and others more than Chinese or Indians, because they are the ones in greater need.
The pertinent issue is, who benefited from all the pro-bumiputera policies if the average bumiputera did not? The wealth transfers over the last 30 years were immense. Consider one example – all companies going for listing on Bursa Malaysia have to allocate 30% of their shares to bumiputeras. And another example – APs to import cars, given primarily to bumiputeras, were reportedly worth tens of thousands of ringgit EACH. Why then is the average bumiputera income still lagging so far behind after all these efforts?
The answer is the increasing gap between the richest and the poorest. Malaysia's gini coefficient (a measure of income disparity between the richest and the poorest) has been rising. The higher the number, the greater the disparity. And for bumiputeras, the Gini coefficient rose from 0.433 in 1999 to 0.452 in 2004 (Source: 9th Malaysia Plan). These pro-bumiputra policies, which were intended to help poor bumiputras, were and are still being reaped mainly by an elite few instead. And I am sure you will agree, most of this elite few are UMNO-related.
Malaysia economic policy should not be about Malays, Chinese, Indians dan lain lain fighting for a share of the pie. It should not be each community hunkered into our own silos and scheming to deprive the other of their assets. The issue should be all of us working to grow the pie, and giving a share to those most in need. It should be all of us standing up against UMNO corruption and arrogance. Hmmm ... how about a Malaysian political party ... MIC-A – Malays, Indians, Chinese ... ALL for Malaysia.