‘Malays still a focus with class-based aid’

PETALING JAYA: Any affirmative action plan by the new government should move away from being race-based to class-based, says DAP’s Charles Santiago.

This follows Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s defence of the decades-old New Economic Policy (NEP) amid claims that it encouraged cronyism and corruption.

At a congress on the future direction of the Bumiputera, Mahathir said while the NEP had not met its target, its policies had brought results to those who did not abuse their privileges.

Santiago said government assistance must be targeted based on needs and that it was the B40 category – those in the bottom 40% of households with a monthly income of less than RM3,900 – which needed the most help.

“If we carry out affirmative action this way, in five years’ time you’ll have a thriving middle class,” he told FMT.

“You’ll pull them out of poverty, empower them to move up the social and economic ladder.”

He said a middle class would have a multiplier effect on the economy.

Charles Santiago.

He also said Malays would stand to benefit the most from class-based affirmative action as they make up the majority of the B40.

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali had said earlier that 71% of the B40 are Bumiputeras with an average monthly salary of RM2,500.

This amount, he said, is RM900 less than the average monthly salary of the non-Bumiputeras in the same class.

Economist Barjoyai Bardai said the conventional idea of affirmative action should no longer be followed, and there should be an emphasis on the redistribution of wealth.

He said despite the NEP’s successes, there were still Malays who felt “left out” because of the concentration of wealth among the elite, most of whom were non-Malays.

He added that there was a need to address poverty, specifically among the Bumiputeras.

“You still need a specific scheme for the Bumiputera to catch up.

“It’s just that instead of a policy or privileges like the NEP, you start another endowment fund for the Bumiputeras.”

He said such an endowment fund could utilise bitcoin as an alternative currency.

He said the endowment fund would work like a central bank which is a repository for the virtual currency, with people able to cash in and out anytime.

“The endowment fund will then invest in various businesses which are stable and generate returns. The better the performance of the fund, the more people will buy into it as the value of the virtual currency will increase.”

Barjoyai said profits from the fund could then be distributed to the poor B40 Bumiputeras.

He also called for a separate endowment fund specifically for the B40, regardless of race, which would be backed by dividends paid by state-owned enterprises.