But existing policies created to enhance Malay commercial capacity are often abused by politically-linked 'rent seekers' to fatten their pockets.
Chamber chairman Ab Rahim Abu Bakar said that Malaysia has a pool of skilled and educated Malay workers, but a major setback is the lack of opportunities.
“Yes, we are competitive but the young do not know where to go, what are their opportunities so they need strategic guidelines,” he told a press conference here.
This can be rectified if proactive policies are in place, he said.
His statement comes amid a backdrop of criticism that existing policies created to enhance Malay commercial capacity are often abused by politically-linked “rent seekers” to fatten their pockets.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had also conceded that economic reforms are needed, but this met stiff opposition from the predominantly Umno-linked Malay businesses threatened by his liberalisation plans.
Fear of potential voter backlash forced Najib to put on hold the implementation of several key policies meant to boost growth.
Economists pointed out that delayed reforms could see Najib government’s goal to transform Malaysia into a high-income nation in eight years’ time in jeopardy.
The government’s refusal to dismantle its race-based affirmative action policies is also a major factor behind the nation’s brain drain crisis and lack of commercial appeal as skilled and talented non-Malays flee the country in search of better opportunities.
But the Malay chamber insisted that Najib is on the right track, saying that it is satisfied with his effort to protect the Bumiputera agenda and Malay businesses.
“The approach or methodology in policies is different but the agenda is still the same,” Rahim said.
He also defended his call for more government help, saying the conditions have changed.
With Malays becoming more competitive, government aid would see marked improvement among Malay businesses unlike in the past.
These are among the issues that will be discussed in the chamber’s annual meeting on June 23, where it is expected to discuss several key challenges facing the Malay business community, including taking a critical look at the Najib administration’s policies.
The meeting will also touch on the need to use Malay NGOs such as the right-wing Malay Economic Action Council to further its business interest.
Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a staunch defender of Malay interests, will also attend the conference.
[main photo is a file pix]