KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Seventy-one per cent of Malaysians surveyed in a recent poll agree with the statement that Barisan Nasional’s “race-based affirmative action policy is obsolete and must be replaced with a merit-based policy”.
Surprisingly, the poll, conducted by the independent Merdeka Centre between June 18 and July 29, up to 65 per cent of Malays who were asked the question agreed that race-based affirmative action should be done away, compared with 83 per cent of Chinese and 89 per cent of Indian respondents.
The overall consensus against race-based affirmative action was also apparent in that 61 per cent of rural and 75 per cent of urban respondents agreed that it should be replaced with a merit-based policy.
The same result was true in nearly all major categories of race, age, gender and income class, suggesting a majority of Malaysians are now ready to do away with NEP-type policies.
Asked to comment on this, Pas head of research Dr Dzulkifli Ahmad noted that the stated objective and vision of the New Economic Policy is to eradicate poverty and reconstruct society so that economic functions according to race would be ended.
The Kuala Selangor MP said it was the abuse of the implementation that has resulted in such a dire opinion of the policy.
“You cannot deny that poverty has been reduced over the years. But, for example, the Approved Permit system was meant to allow Malay entrepreneurs a stake in industries such as the automotive business. Instead, it became a monopoly for a selected few.
“It’s not redistribution of wealth but reconcentration into a bangsawan (nobleman) class.”
However, Umno MP for Pulai Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said that no one has come up with a detailed alternative so it was doubtful if “this opinion is based on hard facts.”
“I feel it is based on sentiment without actually being properly thought through. What is the alternative? Has anything been clearly defined? The last time the NEP was properly discussed was in the ’90s.”
Centre for Public Policy Studies director Tricia Yeoh agreed with Nur Jazlan in that the statement appealed to the normal idealism that meritocracy is the way forward.
“But when a Bumiputera thinks about what needs-based as opposed to race-based means to him in real terms, he might be less enthusiastic.”
Yeoh, however, said the policy was inherently flawed due to conditions such as the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity or employee headcount.