The NEP was devised to achieve several goals, mainly:
- to reverse the social imbalances created under centuries of colonial rule - reduce poverty.
- to increase economic growth.
There are several key implementation steps taken:
- Redistribution of wealth: targeting ownership of enterprise by Bumiputera to 30%
- Education: providing more opportunities to Bumiputera students to study at public universities/abroad via entry requirements, scholarships etc.
- Employment in the civil sector is virtually Bumiputera-exclusive.
- Various quotas/subsidies on car loans, house loans etc.
1. In 2000, the estimated corporate stock ownership by Bumiputeras is 20%; certainly more than the initial 2% yet less than the target of 30%. Yet is it still relevant today to achieve that 30%? It seems that the number of successful Bumiputera entrepreneurs & businessmen represent a small fraction of struggling Bumiputeras that the government originally aimed to help. A huge bulk of government bureaucracy was generated, covering up political cronyism & the many failures of ill-prepared Malay entrepreneurs.
2. At the risk of maintaining that 30% target, there may be less foreign participation in local industries. This discriminatory policy has ignited negative perceptions about the government, not only locally but overseas as well. The NEP is no longer about helping the poor; its seen as a discriminatory system of handouts to a selected ethnic group. However, this setback hasn't really affected the economic growth: Malaysia is now the 2nd most prosperous country after Singapore, with a reported GDP of $186.7 billion.
4. The NEP has caused a brain drain, some say. More than 30 000 Chinese had emigrated to Australia since 1982. Many have left Malaysia for supposedly greener pastures; even Singapore is snapping up bright & intelligent youths who have no patience for the NEP in their future. Despite the NEP "helping" out the Bumiputeras, the professional sector is dominated by non-Malays exceeding their respective population ratios compared to Bumiputeras.
5. Politically speaking, the NEP is putting the current government (the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional/BN) in a sore spot. With dwindling support from the Malays due to dissatisfaction over other policies, BN now needs the support of the Chinese to maintain governing power. Stronger pro-bumiputera policies (in line with the NEP) may coax the undecided Malay voters, but deter the much needed Chinese votes. Being marginalized doesn't make anyone happy.
There are many conflicting views on this matter.
- The younger generations of Bumiputeras do not understand the purpose of the NEP: instead they visualize an easier route in life; expecting cheap education abroad, a pretty much guranteed job in the civil service, cheap cars & the like. The mentality now is that despite slacking, you can still get ahead in life. How do we head to Vision 2020 with this mentality?
- Non-Malays have been unhappy with this marginalization for a long time. The goals of the NEP has been achieved: increased bumiputera participation, increased GDP & reduced poverty. The NEP is now too risky to follow: foreign investment dropped by $4 billion in 2005; strained ethnic relations brings us closer towards the edge that brought the bloody tragedy on May 13, 1969.
- The NEP has reinforced, rather than dissolve, racial barriers. The system of classifying an ethnic group has its loopholes: a 1st generation Indonesian who is Muslim & perhaps with a drop of Malay blood in him can be considered a Bumiputera, whereas a 5th generation Chinese or Indian Malaysian is still classified as an immigrant.
- A major flaw in the NEP is that it differentiates based on race rather than economic class. Malaysian Indians are still among the the poorest & worst-educated. Despite the high incidence of poverty among Indians, their plight has seemingly gone unheard by the government for the past 50 yrs & the NEP has not done much, if anything, to reduce this plight.
I believe the NEP had certainly helped to restructure the social-economic composition & has restored some sense of balance, so that's been achieved at a cost. It's time to remedy that & the sooner it is done, the better.
So what do you think? Should the NEP be a figment of the past or a constant reminder of the difference between Malays & non-Malays?