|NEP ‘dead and buried 18 years ago’|
The New Economic Policy (NEP) had ended over 18 years ago, but we still speak confusingly about liberalising it, lamented veteran Umno politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
“The NEP was necessary and even visionary in 1971, but it is a crushing indictment of our lack of imagination, of the mediocrity of our leadership, that two decades after its expiry, we talk as if it is the sacrosanct centre of our socio-political arrangement, and that departures from it are big strides,” he said.
Speaking at a public relation consultants gathering yesterday on the eve of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s 100th day in office, Razaleigh said the affirmative action policy only “benefitted a few and government corporations when it was imposed”.
“We were devising a time-limited policy for the day, in pursuit of a set of measurable outcomes. We were not devising a doctrine for an eternal socio-economic arrangement.
“But as I said the NEP is no longer around, why do you feel the need to liberalise something that is no longer around – might as well announce that the NEP is over and gone, why confuse the issues?” he said.
Razaleigh was commenting on the recently scrapped 30 percent bumiputera equity requirement for Malaysian companies seeking public listing and the repealed of the regulatory approval of Foreign Investment Committee (FIC).
According to Razaleigh, the NEP was set up to “solve finite set of problems” but when it was over, the government did not have the courage to tell people this fact.
“We must break the stranglehold of communal politics and racial policy if we want to be a place where an economy driven by ideas, and skills can flourish.
“We can do much better than cling to the bright ideas of 40 years ago as if they were dogma, and forget our duty to come up with the bright ideas for our own time.”
Instead, he said that policymakers should think of a “new deal” in order for the country to be talent-driven and competitive.
“A fair and equitable political and economic order, founded on equal citizenship as guaranteed in our constitution, is the only possible basis for a united Malaysia and a prerequisite of the competitive, talent-driven economy we must create if we are to make our economic leap,” he said.
Razaleigh: Najib’s going all out
The veteran Umno politician also said it was “too early” to evaluate Najib’s performance.
“It is too early … because we can only tell a politician’s performance on how he faces the elections. If the people give him good marks by electing him to the top of the polls, of course he has done well.
“But I think he (Najib) is making effort to improve the situation. He is going all out, that poor fellow… he is working hard to bring in more investment into the country to provide employment and jobs for our people,” he said.
However, he urged Malaysians to trust “less in personalities and more in policies”.
“Look less to politics and more to principle, less to rhetoric and more to tangible outcomes, less to the government of the day and more to enduring institutions – first among which must be the Federal Constitution,” he said.
Razaleigh said Najib’s 1Malaysia dictum should be evaluated against issues such as the constitutional crisis in Perak and claims of corruption in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.
“I don’t know about you (but) I am embarrassed that after 50 years of independence we are still talking about bringing Malaysians together.
“I would have wished that by now, and here tonight, we could be talking about how we can conquer new challenges together,” he said.