Monday, September 24, 2007

I Am For The N.E.P.

by Tan Kong Beng ("Saya Sokong DEB" terjemahan Keropok Lekor)

Next year it would a quarter century since I came before an interview panel consisting of the then Acting IGP, the Deputy IGP and several other Commissioners of Police who only had one question for me. They asked me for my views on the New Economic Policy. The policy had been running since 1971 with the expressed intention to eradicate poverty among the poor in Malaysian society.

I was forthright with my opinions on the policy. I declared then that I supported the policy in its stated objectives but thought that the implementation of it was something to be desired.

I gave them some examples of the wrong implementation of the policy courtesy of my
poli-sci and development profs at USM. After that we spent a couple of minutes on other mundane things of life and before I knew it the interview was ended. A couple of weeks later I was called for a positive-vetting interview and then later I received a letter asking me to report to Pulapol (Pusat Latihan Polis) for service in the Polis DiRaja Malaysia.

In the aftermath of the 1969 KL race riots, the government of the day promulgated the New Economic Policy – NEP – with the double-prong aim of “poverty eradication regardless of race” and “restructuring society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function”. The framers of the policy thought to create the conditions for national unity by reducing resentments among the ethnic communities due to socioeconomic disparities.

The NEP policy is associated with the First Outline Perspective Plan (OPP) for 1971–1990 and its target was to reduce poverty from 49% in Peninsular Malaysia in 1970 to 16% in 1990. The actual poverty rate in the peninsula in 1990 was 17% however the national rate was slightly higher. Through the NEP we have done well. But more can still be done.

I think the NEP has served the nation well in its stated doubled-pronged aim but what we have seen in practice is that it has been implemented with the tendency to favour one community over other communities as if only one community is poor and is in need of help.

Of late, there have been voices raised to get rid of the policy. But I disgree with such opinions. I still believe that the NEP in its truest aspiration was for poor Malaysians. It was to give them a leg-up so that they can be a success and to enter into the mainstream of society if we provided them with the financial resources and opportunities to do so.

Perhaps I am influenced by my own limited experience. I have experienced the negative side of the NEP but I have also seen its positive work. In one year that I was able to stay in campus, my room-mate was from Kedah and his father was a poor padi farmer who would not have otherwise been able to support his son’s tertiary ambitions if not for the NEP.

Then much later in the late 1980s, I was privileged to work with Orang Asli people and I saw that the NEP was not reaching such communities. If it was not reaching the Orang Asli people in the late 1980s then it was probably not reaching the majority of the other poor Malaysians in our urban towns and cities and across the seas to our brethren in Sabah and Sarawak.

I do believe that we should continue to support the twin aims of the NEP and work on better implementation plans so that those who are poor can be helped and that our society truly can be re-structured so that no ethnic group controls sectors of our economy but all communities contributing to the welfare and well-being of all Malaysians.

Happy 50th Merdeka for all of us celebrating the formation of the Federation of Malaya and Happy Malaysia Day on September 16th when we celebrate the 44th anniversary of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia with our friends in Sabah and Sarawak.

Kong Beng is a church Elder and fulltime worker with a church in Subang Jaya. He is also a director of OHMSI.

No comments: