Nov 6, 2006

Stop disputing bumi equity methodology

A government backbencher today asked the opposition to stop harping on the dispute over the bumiputera equity ownership as he defended the government’s methodology.

“We have never questioned the Chinese Malaysians’ wealth,” said Mohd Said Yusof (BN-Jasin) while debating the Budget 2007 in the Dewan Rakyat today.

“Out of the top 100 richest people in Malaysia, how many of them are Malays? How many of them are Ibans?” he asked further.

The MP said the government’s Economic Planning Unit (EPU) did not mislead the people on the calculation of equity ownership - a methodology of which has been shrouded in secrecy.

Mohd Said also argued that the Malaysian government is a caring government for all races with policies implemented with the consideration of the racial composition in the country.

Mohd Said, who was previously embroiled in alleged abuses of power controversies, added the government was being fair in distributing government projects to all contractors.

Citing the projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), he said the “bumiputera (contractors) did not sapu (sweep) everything”.

Defuse unhealthy speculations

Earlier, Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor) asked the government to establish an independent panel of experts to review the current methodology.
Lim said the panel should also evaluate the data sources used in computing the ownership of corporate equity.

“The panel should, based on its review, make comprehensive recommendations concerning methodological modifications that are needed, taking into account professional statistical and accounting best practices and standards,” he proposed.

The panel should include professional accountants, economists, corporate analysts, academicians and statistical experts and be represented by both the public and private sectors, Lim said.

He said these steps should be announced by the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in winding up the debates on the Budget 2007.

“It is important that these steps are taken immediately with the objective of defusing unhealthy speculation and braking the polarisation trends associated with this issue,” he said.

In his debate, Lim also cited a Universiti Malaya (UM) research paper and several examples highlighted in malaysiakini reports earlier to argue the EPU’s methodology was flawed.

The UM research paper drew a similar conclusion to a report by local think-tank Asian Strategy and Leadership (Asli) that the 30 percent bumiputera equity ownership target has been reached.

Reveal the methodology, now

The UM report said the target, which came under the government’s New Economic Policy (NEP) was reached in 1997 when it hit 33.7 percent while Asli put the figure of bumiputera equity ownership around 45 percent.

Both findings were in sharp contrast to the official figure of 18.9 percent as at last year.

The government has dismissed the Asli report findings and gave a public undertaking three weeks ago on its willingness to reveal the EPU’s methodology in computing the equity ownership according to ethnicity breakdown.

However, there has been no new development since then.

Nevertheless, following news reports on the UM research paper, various quarters - including leaders from the ruling Gerakan Youth - reminded the government its promise to reveal the EPU methodology.

Critics have alleged that the government undervalues the bumiputera share of corporate equity to justify the continuation of the NEP and its related policies which give favourable treatment to bumiputeras.

The Dewan Rakyat, which resumes today after a month-long break due to the fasting month, sits again tomorrow. - MalaysiaKini

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