Make affirmative action needs-based, says Daim

Putrajaya’s chief adviser Daim Zainuddin.

PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya’s chief adviser Daim Zainuddin today called for a shift in affirmative action from a race-based approach to one that is needs-based.

Speaking at an international conference on emerging issues in public policy at Universiti Malaya’s Institute of Public Policy and Management, he said it was time for a new approach that would help those who have not benefitted from the rewards of national development.

“We can no longer allow Bumiputera interventions to continue to enrich those among us who have benefited from these policies, yet continue to take advantage of loopholes in the policies to continue enriching themselves at the expense of those who need help,” he said.

“We must also acknowledge that although Bumiputeras are indeed disproportionately represented among the poor, other races too are deeply affected by poverty and low standards of living.”

In particular, he spoke of the Orang Asli community, the urban poor, those in rural areas and individuals who have failed to benefit in the national agenda.

“Policy-wise, the B40, irrespective of race, must be given priority,” he said.

“As the majority among the B40 group, Bumiputeras will still stand to benefit the most. Those who don’t deserve assistance will not get it. And this should be the case.”

Daim said the New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced by Tun Abdul Razak in 1971, had succeeded in reducing hardcore poverty, growing the middle class and diversifying the economy.

However, he said it had also been rife with shortcomings and abuses, causing it to become “a source of much dissatisfaction while remaining probably the most defended policy of the government”.

“The new NEP… must approach the Bumiputera dilemma with a fresh perspective, to ensure that all Malaysians can have their fair share of our national prosperity.

“Any policy must result in justice for all.”

He called for the inculcation of positive moral values among the youth, adding that Malaysians must take pride in their work as well as in themselves.

“Do we gain anything by teaching the young that they have the right of entitlement over all others simply because of their race? Is it right to be instilling in students the thinking that all other religions are inferior to yours?

“Is it moral to drill into students that other students are not entitled to certain privileges simply because they are not of a certain race, even if they are economically disadvantaged?

“Is it right to think that if you are of a certain race that is economically successful, then you should look down on others from a race that isn’t?

“Is it right that you are taught to feel superior because the language you are taught in is also the language of an economically powerful nation?

“There needs to be understanding and empathy across the racial divide,” he said.