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Affirmative action for poor Malaysians

January 31, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Proham, via e-mail

Malaysia has been effective in addressing poverty as overall house-hold poverty based on the poverty line index is currently low. However, there are still pockets of poverty among certain sections of Malaysian society which cuts across all ethnic communities.

There are major concerns over income inequalities and disparities at the inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic levels, especially between the top 20% and the bottom 40%. Eliminating disparities within the communities are critical at this point, unfortunately.

The three unhealthy and regressive trends in recent times which hinder real efforts in addressing poverty and inequality are:-

- The call by certain sections for the continuance of unreasonable race based affirmative policies and the analysis that failure to do so will result in ethnic clashes and riots.

- The ‘cash hand out’ programmes to address poverty which are one-off, unsustainable and a major departure from poverty eradication schemes which build on self-reliance and self -help.

- The many affirmative action programmes of the past have benefitted only certain sections especially the elites and have been abused due to lack accountability and good governance.

Proham calls on the Federal government to adopt the UN Human Rights Approach To Poverty Eradication which builds human capabilities and which is needs based with specific targeting of public sector resources to the poor and low income irrespective of ethnicity, gender, age and location. In so doing the concerns of both the majority community and minorities will be addressed.

Proham also calls for a review of all one of cash hand outs which does not provide sustainable upliftment to the poor and low income and in fact a burden to public resources. These funds could be better utilised in socio-economic assistance to the real poor through better targeting and capability building.

The government must also ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in order to ensure that justice and fairness is exercised. Within the convention are provisions for affirmative action and reasonable classification and therefore not inconsistent with human rights.

Proham calls on the Federal Government to establish the Third Economic Consultative Council. The last council was established in 1999 -2000 to draft the Second report. There is an urgent need to review the progress made by all the communities and ensure that this consultative process will set an agenda beyond 2020 for a socio-economic development based on community consensus and cohesion ensuring no community or group is left behind.

Issued on behalf of Proham by Ivy Josiah, Michael Yeoh, Ramon Navaratnam, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah and Denison Jayasooria


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