MOST fair-minded and thinking Malaysians and especially non-Malay Malaysians will enthusiastically support the Group of 25 for their bold agenda for action by the Economic Action Council (EAC)

We would also want the EAC to act fast on its substantive and comprehensive agenda for action that has been provided by the Group of Malay intellectual and proven professionals, who have contributed immensely to the development of Malaysia since Merdeka.

Like many thousands of non-Malays, who also served our country faithfully, we all like to strengthen the voices of our Malay brothers and sisters who have boldly and patriotically come out with an agenda for action for the prestigious and dedicated members of the EAC to seriously consider and act upon.

Solid recommendations

As the G25 rightly and courageously points out “there is no shortage of recommendations on the measures that Malaysia must take to inspire confidence in the economy and enable the country to move out of the middle-income trap and become a developed country”.

The problem is the slow action and whether we have the strong political will to think out of the box and to look at our long-term needs to face the new global challenges posed by the digital economy.

The main recommendation of the G25 is on the fundamental need to review the New Economic Policy.

It’s outmoded after 60 years of head strong application, during which time, it has been considerably abused. After achieving its many goals creditably earlier, the NEP later added to problems by providing more opportunities for more corruption and the widening of income disparities. This consequent unequal distribution of income and opportunities have also caused both intra and inter-racial disparities.

It can be argued that the present major concern over the high cost of living is largely due to the uncompetitive NEP policies and practices.

All this have therefore also brought about more uncertainty for the future and for national disharmony and national disunity.

Hence, the G25 recommendation to reject race-based policies and to adopt and effectively implement needs-based economic policies must therefore be the first priority of the EAC.

All true and sincere Malaysians should welcome the continuation of affirmative action for the poor of all races. Then we will experience a surge of national unity and national wellbeing and a better quality of life for all Malaysians.

Agenda for action

The G25 proposal to reduce the role of government-linked companies (GLCs ) is most welcome. Many GLCs have been too protected and have crowded out the private sector – both bumis and the non-Malays.

There could be new policies to include small and medium industries to work with the GLCs or we could disinvest some of the weak GLCs altogether.

The GLCs could be made much more efficient and competitive and meritocratic. This way the economy could be freed of some of the shackles to promote greater productivity with more competition. The non-Malays will also feel more inclusive in helping to realise the full potential of the economy.

Similarly, the EAC could devise ways and means to be more inclusive in the private sector where there is some dominance of the non-bumis. The serious brain drain could also be reduced if more opportunities are given to all Malaysians regardless of race or elitism.

The education system will largely be responsible for our success or decline as a nation. The recent dialogue organised by Asli showed the frustration expressed by many over the slow pace of education reforms.

There should be much more teaching of science and technology, the English language and the arts and culture, to produce more rounded and better equipped students to meet the challenges of the future.

Religious teaching, and the cultivation of good value systems are vital. But they must be given the right balance and in reasonable proportion in terms of time and priority .

Foreign labour has been excessive. The G25 has indicated that it is due to much lobbying by vested interests and even corruption. So the EAC has to investigate this quickly and introduce solutions to solve this long-standing decay in our society. Again, will there be the right political will to act fast or will the EAC delay action?

The G25 has an impressive agenda for the EAC to act upon and hopefully at a faster pace. We hope its report will also not be put away like some other reports.

I would only add a few more items and there can be many more to give the EAC to adopt and act fast to increase public credibility and confidence. The new items are as follows:

» The public service should be made more multiracial and multi-religious and better represented geographically. There could be more Sabahans and Sarawakians and especially orang asli in the public service.

» Economic development should be more decentralised so that the poorer regions in the country and the pockets of poverty could get higher priority for more rapid development. Local elections will help ensure better performance of local government.

» The 17 UN sustainable development goals could be adopted as our underlying goals to enhance our quality of life on a consistent and long-term basis.

» Extremism and bigotry of all kinds can undermine our socioeconomic development and must be rejected stoutly from whatever quarters as this will undermine our national unity and progress.

» The UN Human Rights Conventions should be adopted soon to eliminate discrimination and to improve our faith in our future.

» Our national institutions must be further strengthened. This would include inter alia the independence of the judiciary, the press, the civil service and religious freedoms.

Obviously, we the people know what we want and that is to build a united, strong and progressive country. The able members of the EAC know very well that it’s not the economy alone that needs improvement.

It’s actually the whole socioeconomic and political system and institutions that need to be reviewed and revised.

But the crucial question remains in the minds of most thinking Malaysians – how much will the EAC be able to do and how long will it take to deliver – at least on the low lying fruits and the higher priority issues that worry all Malaysians.

We hope the EAC has enough issues for a good agenda for action and that it can deliver fast, please.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam


Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies