PETALING JAYA: Many of the principles in the New Economic Policy (NEP) no longer work and have instead led to dysfunctional politics and growing divisions among Malaysia’s communities, according to corporate figure Nazir Razak.
Nazir, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister and NEP architect Abdul Razak Hussein, said the status quo was quickly becoming untenable and asked if the country’s leaders had the initiative to develop and implement new political, economic and social systems.
He said the NEP was not meant to be a permanent solution.
The former CIMB group chairman said the NEP principles, many of which have remained since its institution in 1970, had manifested themselves in “our dysfunctional politics, our economic data and the growing divisions”.
“It’s not surprising because the system that was put in place was meant to be an experiment and to be temporary,” he told FMT.
He warned that festering issues would boil over if the country’s leaders failed to act with urgency to institute reforms.
“Do we have to wait for fighting in the streets or for us to be a failed state before we deal with reforms?”
Nazir said the current state of emergency, political instability and public frustration should be proof enough that changes were needed.
“Shouldn’t our leaders sit down, recognise the problems and go through these reforms now? They should not selfishly say: ‘I’m a beneficiary of the system; so I don’t want to change anything.’
“That’s always the problem with reform. The people in power are kind of saying, ‘This is the system that got me here. Why would I want to change it?’”
He said there was a need to form a group of experts to examine the country’s most pressing and divisive issues. This is a call Nazir has repeatedly made.
He said the group could be akin to the National Consultative Council formed following the May 13 riots.
“Vernacular schools, affirmative action, this whole issue of secular versus Islamic state – all these things have to be on the table and discussed,” he said.
“Get community leaders, intellectuals, and so on to debate and come up with a new system that can set us on a better path.
“Today, the world waits for no one. The dynamics are such that if we don’t sort out our democracy and society, and collaborate across identity borders now, we are going to get further and further left behind.”
Nazir noted that new forms of policymaking were being explored around the world and said it had been shown that elected representatives were increasingly losing touch with voters.
“For long-term structural issues, you cannot rely on Parliament or on political parties, which basically have very short-term agendas,” he said.
“The person you elect is going to vote according to what his party tells him, not what his constituents want.
“They are also always affected by the election cycle.”
Referring to an Irish experience, he said a panel of citizens, intellectuals and community leaders were told by parliamentarians that the public would never accept its recommendation to legalise abortion. But the referendum passed with nearly two-thirds of the vote.
“Are politicians the right people to deal with long-term structural issues to better the nation? I think not,” he said.