Ever since I ventured into business in 1985, I have been conditioned not to do any business with our government. It was not possible to register as a supplier to the government as my company is required to have a minimum 51% Bumiputra (Bumi) ownership. Some government contracts are reserved only for 100% Bumi entities. So I ventured into the private sector and have stayed there ever since.
I remembered that any company going for an IPO listing had to reserve 30% shareholding for Bumi participation. These shares were distributed by the Ministry of Trade and Industries to Bumi institutions and entrepreneurs listed with the Ministry. Traditionally institutions like PNB were given the option to take up to 20% of the listed concern with the balance 10% shared by the list of individuals as determined by the Ministry.
The New Economic Policy (1971-1990) had 3 main objectives – to achieve national unity, harmony and integrity, through socio-economic restructuring of the society and poverty eradication. As most of the economic activities at that time were controlled by the non-Malays, the government had to step in to acquire ownership in various economic activities for the Malay population and helped to find employment and securing participation for the Malays in economic activities.
At that time, all multinational corporation and major local corporations like banks etc were given instructions to have a minimum of 30% Malay management staff in their organisation. The UMNO led government was working hard on the objective of securing at least 30% share of the economic pie for the Malays.
In education, at least 70% of the places in the local universities were reserved for the Malays. Institute Teknologi Mara had almost a 100% Malay enrollment institution and it has retained the same policy to this day. Most of the overseas scholarships managed by the Public Services Department were given to Malays and these educational endeavors have been responsible for building a knowledgeable and capable cohort of Malay Managers.
Through the GLC’s and GLIC’s, many of their investee companies are managed by capable Malay managers. Via these sovereign Malay funds, the Malaysian government is now controlling all the major sectors of the economy, from banking to properties to shipping to oil and gas etc. The only problem left for the government is how to equitably distribute this accumulated wealth to the mass Malay population.
All these efforts have over the years yielded many successful Malay entrepreneurs. Malays now form the biggest middle class income cluster as compared to the non-Malays. Unfortunately, there is also a big population of Malays who are in the B40’s segment of society. Income inequality is now intra-race rather than inter-race. The same problem exists among the Chinese and the Indians too as in all the other races in Sabah and Sarawak.
The income inequality has widen between rich and poor Malaysians, whether you are Malay or non-Malay. This is now a national problem not just for Malaysia but in many developed countries as well. Our Malaysian government must arrest this problem as soon as possible. Widening income inequality will only cause discontent and unrest among the poor citizens, Malays and non-Malays alike.
Then comes this 2021 budget, the biggest national budget ever to stimulate the economy back to life amidst the pandemic recession. Over RM 320 billion to be spent in 2021 and it was interesting to watch the reaction of the politicians and the man in the street.
Within minutes of the budget being read in Parliament by our non-political Minister of Finance, one particular text was circulated over social media that caught my attention.
‘Very generous budget for the rakyat. RM100 million for Indian, RM177 million for Chinese education, RM1.4 billion for Islamic affairs, RM 4.6 billion for Bumiputra businesses, RM6.5 billion for Bumiputra education.”
I was not surprised with the allocation breakdown as similar allocation had been implemented in every budget since 1971 from the government of Barisan Nasional to Pakatan Harapan and now Perikatan Nasional. What disappointed me most was the lack of financial assistance and support to the non-Bumi SME’s as our country has gone into deep recession.
Since the lockdown started in March, the Malaysian SME’s have suffered the most. It has been reported that 50,000 SME’s have closed shop and a further 100,000 SME’s will follow suit. The Malaysian government must extend financial assistance to help all Malaysian SME’s irrespective of race and religion.
Preparing a budget need not be a zero sum game. If you allocate RM4.6 billion to help Bumi businesses, then allocate a proportionate amount to help the non Bumi SME’s based on population ratio of 65:35 which means an allocation of RM1.6 billion should be provided. The budget policy should emphasize on bridging the income inequality between the rich and the poor and not based on the outdated National Economic Policy.
Fair enough that the politicians in the Malay political parties continue to push the Malay agenda, I am utterly disappointed that the politicians from the so called multi-racial parties like PKR and DAP have not uttered a single protest for the non-provision of financial assistance to the non-bumi SME’s in Parliament while debating the budget.
I am utterly disgusted with our National leaders who called for a unity government and announced that they will be a government for all Malaysians while continuing to promote unfair racial policies. During such unprecedented times of extreme economic stress, we need a courageous leader to rise above the archaic politics of the yesteryears, and who can provide leadership towards a unified vision of equality for all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion.
Chinese SME’s who have overwhelmingly voted for DAP in the last general elections must be greatly disappointed with DAP for not looking after their interests in the last PH government and now in opposition. Whimpering excuses replacing roars of a fake lion.
Unfulfilled manifestos, broken promises and shattered dreams.
Just a bunch of pathetic politicians who have lost their plot.