KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is ready for a law to address inequality in both the private and public sectors, the group of influential Malays known as the G25 said.
In a report entitled Invigorating Economic Confidence in Malaysia, it said an anti-discrimination law would help streamline non-discrimination in employment in all government departments and the private sector.
It also proposed the establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission, as recommended by the New Economic Modal. This is “to ensure fairness and address undue discrimination when deceptive abuses by any dominant group are encountered.”
G25 said: “Malaysia has reached a mature economic status to put in place the anti-discrimination law (outlawing discrimination on basis of race, gender, religion) to give the legal basis underlying the proposed Equal Opportunities Commission.
Saying more needed to be done for those in the Bottom 40% of households, the G25 said a bold revamp should be undertaken on managing access to education and business opportunities for this group and other disadvantaged citizens.
“The revamped new generation of supportive assistance programmes will consider all ethnic groups fairly and equally as long as they are in the low income 40% of households or business owners. Other community assistance programmes must be based on market-friendly and market-based criteria taking into consideration the needs and merits of the applicants, free of race-based quotas or any such discriminatory practices.
“The focus of corrective policy actions must be on relative poverty and not race, taking into account regional or locational disparities, especially for Sarawak and Sabah. Special attention must also be given to those with physical or other impairments, requiring assistance, including orphans and refugees.”
The report, which was divided into two main sections – Economic and Workforce Reforms and Structural Reforms – contains a host of ideas on how to improve the socio-economic standing of the nation.
Among the observations and proposals are:
- Expand BR1M by introducing vouchers or stamps for food or defined services to the qualifying below 40% households;
- Revive agriculture policies aimed at promoting food sufficiency through modernisation of the cultivation of cash food crops;
- Remove the protection on the car industry by reducing the excise duties on cars and restrictive oligopolistic import permits. Studies show that removing import and excise duties on cars can increase household incomes by as much as 30%, enabling households to better manage rising prices;
- Reverse policies favouring dependency on low cost foreign labour;
- Address the contribution of the public sector to overall growth, which has not only declined but is becoming a drag on growth;
- Drastically realign both the operational and development expenditures at all levels of government. The falling development expenditure ratios in the total budget (development expenditure declined from 31% of total budget in 2010 to only 18% in 2016) should be urgently reversed to restore public sector contribution to GDP growth;
- The higher cuts in education and health are detrimental to capacity building and sustaining a viable workforce;
- Review the size of government, given the increasingly greater reliance on technology;
- Set up a panel comprising mainly business leaders and tax experts for a public review of the tax system;
- Maintain the GST but improve its implementation;
- Ensure the ministry of finance is more transparent on government expenditure by releasing details of allocations and not only the consolidated expenditure items;
- The government should not hold large blocks of equities in GLCs unless these GLCs are strategic. Non-strategic GLCs should be privatised and government should focus its role as a regulator and facilitator;
- The government should prepare for the workforce and workplace dislocation and disruption stemming from innovation and technological changes;
- Give universities the full mandate to operate independently within broad parameters across academic programmes and financial management with freedom to select all categories of staff. Vice-chancellors and top administrators should not be politically appointed;
- Ensure quality primary and secondary education to break not only equity barriers along income lines, but also income equity along gender, ethnicity and geographic dimensions:
- Introduce a teacher licencing system to retain the best teachers;
- Decentralise school management by freeing decisions on hiring teachers and determining salaries, textbook choices and curriculum flexibility; and
- Ensure greater use of English language in schools to restore proficiency in the language while fostering better ethnically balanced schools as in the past.