Political elite exploiting pro-Bumi policies, says economist

An economist says the government should learn from past mistakes in the implementation of policies to help the Bumiputeras.

PETALING JAYA: An economist has blamed the country’s political elite for the alleged failure of policies meant to raise the economic status of Bumiputeras.

Speaking to FMT, Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said Malay politicians in power had been exploiting the affirmative action policies for political support and sometimes for their own financial gain.

He did not elaborate, except to say that this was why large numbers of Bumiputera businesses were still struggling.

Barjoyai was commenting on PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s call for a study to find out why Bumiputeras are still struggling despite their privileges.

In a statement yesterday, Anwar said pro-Bumiputera policies would continue to fail if they did not help those “truly in need”.

Barjoyai Bardai

Barjoyai said the government should learn from mistakes made in the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) by strengthening the institutions that are supposed to help in the achievement of policy objectives.

He said Bumiputera institutions must not be allowed to sell off contracts awarded to them.

“If you resort to Ali Baba arrangements, you are running an institution as a business rather than a body to help build capacity,” he said.

Barjoyai also said affirmative action should be based on need rather than race, adding that Bumiputeras, whom he described as the people most in need as a group, would still be the main beneficiaries.

“It does not make sense for those who are rich to benefit from affirmative action as they will be denying opportunities to others, including members of their own race,” he added.

But Zouhair Rosli, a researcher with DM Analytics, spoke of a difference between assistance based on needs and affirmative action to help Bumiputeras.

He argued that the government was already helping the poor of all races.

He gave the example of the Bantuan Sara Hidup cash assistance and said there were other forms of welfare aid from which all races could benefit.

Zouhair Rosli

“The rationale for Bumiputera affirmative action is to build Bumiputera capacity and capability,” he said.

However, he criticised the implementation of pro-Bumiputera policies, saying they had been plagued by corruption and various forms of leakage.

“How we implement policies need to change,” he said. “We need to be objective, but the problem is that everything is political. We give contracts to people who do not have the capabilities or the capacity.

“Bumiputera affirmative action has to be targeted to provide opportunities to Bumiputeras who are capable and have the capacity to make use of those opportunities.”

He said some affirmative action policies could be reviewed and suggested the denial of housing discounts for the rich and the opening up of more places for matriculation studies for other races.