Nov 25, 2006

Analysts warn of fallout from Malaysia's affirmative action policies

Part IV

(Channel News Asia) There is growing concern among the non-Malay community in Malaysia as the ruling party UMNO continues to pursue the affirmative action policies to uplift the status of bumiputras.

And analysts say the economic and political fallout may become evident in the next few years.

The UMNO-led government's continued push to maintain the affirmative action based New Economic Policy has made many non-Malays anxious.

Opposition leaders say the people are disappointed that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has failed to honour his electoral promise to be a prime minister not just for the Malays but for all Malaysians.

Lim Kit Siang, Opposition Leader, DAP, said: "Many people have expected the Prime Minister to be fair but he's not been walking the talk. It's going to be bad in terms of electoral results for all BN component parties because everybody is disappointed - they feel they are at the raw end."

The NEP, he says, is geared towards internal distribution, where only the upper class or the Malay elite benefit, while the large masses remain marginalised.

But a representative of the rural Malays begs to differ.

The 40-year-old US trained engineer says he's got the government to thank for getting him to where he is today.

Idris Haron, Member of Parliament, Tangga Batu, said: "I came from a very poor family, my father passed away when I was 6, I have siblings of 5, my mother had to rubbertap every single day. It's been proven I have changed my family status from a very poor to middle class now. I brought power to the house and now my mother really lives on the floor not on land anymore. Last time my house got no floor, the roof leaks after heavy rains."

But the concerns of the other races extends beyond just polarisation of Malaysian society.

The Malaysian economy slowed to 5.2 percent last year from 7.2 percent a year ago.

Foreign direct investments have also dipped considerably.

Chia Kwang Chye, Secretary General, Gerakan, said: "The concern is if the economy do not grow fast enough, do not expand or worst still if it goes into recession then where are you going to take the extra wealth to distribute?"

Nevertheless, the opposition argued that the government, by hanging on to the 35-year-old affirmative action policy, will only undermine the country's competitiveness in a fast globalised world and that, they say may cost the UMNO-led government in the next elections. - CNA/ch

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