New concept of a Cohesive Malaysian Society based on Equality and Fairness

By:

Dr Lee Hwok Aun

Affiliations:

-

Policy Code:

3e Economic Justice

Problem Statement:

Malaysians yearn for a socioeconomic system that looks out equally for all, that helps the needy regardless of identity. We also welcome policies that promote participation, capability and diversity. This moment presents an opportunity for national policy to provide clarity on these objectives, and to align programmes in a systematic and constructive manner.

The principle of “need-based” assistance resonates widely, but the discourses are often clouded and cause undue polarization because we fail to specify the practical operations and limits of “need-based” policies. Likewise, group-targeted programmes – favouring Bumiputeras, Indian, Orang Asli or women – involve specific interventions that must be clarified and recognized continual priorities and challenges.

A systematic and productive reset to Bumiputera development is timely and vital, anchored on capability and participation. Driving the agenda by these precepts bolsters the prospect of effective and sustained progress. Moving forward also entails positively putting in place appropriate incentives, support systems, and graduation mechanisms.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

A new framework that
A. Safeguards equality in basic rights, dignity, and well-being, through universal provision of basic needs and decent living standards for all, regardless of identity
B. Promotes participation, capability and diversity in a fair and productive manner, mainly through group-targeted, special measures that based on appropriate balance of identity, need, and merit

Proposal of Solution:

Reformulate the pillars of inclusive development, based on (A) equality and (B) fairness:

A. Provision of basic needs and decent living standards to all, based on the principles of equality and dignity, and rights. These policies specifically involve: basic schooling (primary and secondary), public health services, nutrition, social protection, shelter, basic income and decent work conditions.
Special attention should be accorded to:
1. Addressing practical necessity and people’s demands for not just basic provision but higher quality of services and healthier work-life balance
2. Highlighting that specific disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalized groups warrant assistance for attaining basic needs. Among these are the urban poor, poor Indian communities, Orang Asli, Sabah and Sarawak natives, female-headed households, etc.
3. Disbursement of public funds and design of development programmes that aim to narrow gaps between states and regions.

B. On the principle of fairness, develop capabilities and promote participation, first and foremost, in order to reduce inter-group disparities in access, opportunity, capability, and representation, and ultimately to narrow income and wealth gaps. The key areas of pro-Bumiputera (and other designated groups) programmes must be specified:
1. Higher education (pre-university programmes, admissions, sponsorship) - in these areas, as well, more preference for disadvantaged can be incorporated, with continual emphasis on developing capability.
2. High-level occupations (professional and management positions, especially in public sector and GLCs)
3. Enterprise development (SMEs, GLCs, public procurement, vendor development, grants and loans, microfinance, training and advisory support) - the emphasis must be on developing capability, but there is scope especially in microfinance to target the poor/B40 of all ethnic groups
4. Wealth and property ownership (unit trusts, share allocations, property discounts)

A bottom-up building process must be emphasized and systematically formulated, focusing on developing capability, competitiveness and confidence as the driving factors.

These policy spheres under theme (B) are more complex than the provision of basic needs and decent living of theme (A) above, and hence it is suitably guided by the principle of fairness – akin to “equitability”, but arguably simpler to comprehend and communicate to the general public.

Additional Information:

“Malaysia’s New Economic Policy and the 30% Bumiputera Equity Target: Time for a Revisit and a Reset”, ISEAS Perspective 2021 No. 36, 25 March https://www.iseas.edu.sg/articles-commentaries/iseas-perspective/malaysias-new-economic-policy-and-the-30-bumiputera-equity-target-time-for-a-revisit-and-a-reset-by-lee-hwok-aun/ "Ditching Malaysia’s Bumiputera System: Three Utopian Scenarios To Consider", Fulcrum 2021/33, 4 February 2021 https://fulcrum.sg/ditching-malaysias-bumiputera-system-three-utopian-scenarios-to-consider/ “The NEP at 50: Misunderstood and Misrepresented”, Fulcrum 2020/206, 9 December 2020. https://fulcrum.sg/the-nep-at-50-misunderstood-and-misrepresented/ “Making Sense of Budget 2021’s Ethnic Fault Lines”, Between the Lines, 13 December 2020. https://betweenthelines.my/making-sense-of-budget-2021s-ethnic-fault-lines/ “Muhyiddin’s grand plan for Malaysia’s development lacks clear focus when it comes to Bumiputra”, South China Morning Post, 7 October 2020 https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3104455/muhyiddins-grand-plan-malaysias-development-lacks-clear-focus “Comprehending Ethnic Inequality in Malaysia: Going Beyond the Stereotypes”, ISEAS Commentary 2020/97, 23 July 2020 https://www.iseas.edu.sg/media/commentaries/comprehending-ethnic-inequality-in-malaysia-going-beyond-the-stereotypes/ "Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 Needs a Rethink to Make a Breakthrough" https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2019_107.pdf "Where’s Malaysia Headed with its Race-Based Preferential Policies?" https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/2182755/wheres-malaysia-headed-its-race-based-preferential-policies "New regimes, old policies and a bumiputera reboot" https://www.newmandala.org/new-regimes-old-policies-bumiputera-reboot/ "Mid-Term Review of 11th Malaysia Plan: Reaffirming Bumiputra Policy, But Also Signalling New Attention to Minority Needs" https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/ISEAS_Perspective_2019_5.pdf "Article 153 empowers temporary affirmative action, but cannot resolve majority-minority tensions" https://www.malaymail.com/news/what-you-think/2018/11/12/article-153-empowers-temporary-affirmative-action-but-cannot-resolve-majori/1692551 "Can we have an honest conversation on Article 153?" https://www.malaymail.com/news/what-you-think/2018/06/06/can-we-have-an-honest-conversation-on-article-153-lee-hwok-aun/1638843 "Malaysia’s Bumiputera Preferential Regime and Transformation Agenda: Modified Programmes, Unchanged System" https://www.iseas.edu.sg/images/pdf/TRS22_17.pdf

Translation

Isu dan Polisi Semasa:

Rakyat Malaysia menghasratkan sistem sosioekonomi yang membela semua warga dan membantu mereka yang kurang bernasib baik tanpa mengira identiti. Kita juga mengalu-alukan polisi yang memupuk penyertaan, keupayaan dan kepelbagaian. Saat ini memberi peluang kepada polisi kebangsaan supaya mencerahkan matlamat-matlamat ini, serta menjajarkan program-program secara sistematik dan membina.
Prinsip bantuan “berasaskan keperluan” disambut baik, tetapi perbicaraan am seringnya dikeruhkan dan menyebabkan polarisasi berlebihan kerana kita gagal mengenalpasti operasi dan had polisi “berasaskan keperluan”. Begitu juga progam-program yang menyasarkan kumpulan (group-targeted) – yang memihak kepada golongan Bumiputera, India, Orang Asli, wanita, dsb. – melibatkan campurtangan tertentu yang perlu diterangkan dan diiktiraf sebagai prioriti dan cabaran yang berterusan.
Pembangunan Bumiputera mustahak disusun semula secara sistematik dan produktif, berpandukan keupayaan dan penyertaan. Agenda yang dipacukan sedemikian mampu mara ke hadapan secara berkesan dan bertahan. Melangkah ke hadapan juga melibatkan insentif, sistem sokongan dan mekanisme graduasi yang bersesuaian.

Nilai-nilai dan Kepercayaan:

Kerangka baru yang
A. Mempertahankan kesamaan hak-hak asasi, maruah dan kebajikan, melalui pembekalan universal keperluan asas serta taraf hidup munasabah (decent living standards) bagi semua, tanpa mengira identiti
B. Mendukung penyertaan, keupayaan dan kepelbagaian secara adil dan produktif, terutamanya melalui polisi bersasarkan kumpulan dan tindakan istimewa yang berdasarkan imbangan yang sesuai merangkumi identiti, keperluan dan kebolehan (identity, need, merit)

Penyelesaian:

Menggubal semula polisi pembangunan berteraskan (A) kesamaan dan (B) keadilan.
A. Pembekalan keperluan asas dan taraf hidup yang munasabah kepada semua, berasaskan prinsip kesamaan. Bidang ini merangkumi: Pendidikan asas (sekolah rendah dan menengah), perkhidmatan kesihatan awam, pemakanan, perlindungan sosial, tempat perlindungan, pendapatan asas dan keadaan kerja yang munasabah.
· Perhatian khusus wajar diberi kepada:
1. Keperluan dan tuntutan rakyat supaya dibiayai bukan sahaja perkhidmatan asas tetapi juga kualiti dan kesejahteraan dalam imbangan kerja-hayat (work-life balance)
2. Keprihatinan terhadap kepentingan kumpulan-kumpulan yang kurang bernasib baik, rentan, dan terpinggir, antaranya, golongan miskin bandar, masyarakat India, Orang Asli, orang asal Sabah dan Sarawak, dan isirumah diketuai wanita.
3. Peruntukan dana awam dan pelaksanaan program pembangunan yang bertujuan merapatkan jurang antara negeri dan rantau.

B. Atas prinsip keadilan, membangunkan keupayaan dan memperluaskan penyertaan, pertama sekali, bagi mengurangkan ketidaksamaan antara kumpulan dari segi akses, peluang, keupayaan, dan representasi, dan akhirnya merapatkan jurang pendapatan dan kemewahan.
· Bidang-bidang utama program pro-Bumiputera (serta kumpulan lain yang disasarkan) perlu diperincikan:
1. Pendidikan tinggi (program pra-universiti, sistem kemasukan, biasiswa dan bantuan kewangan) – dalam bidang ini, golongan kurang bernasib baik boleh diberi layanan istimewa, dan penekanan terhadap peningkatan keupayaan perlu diteruskan
2. Pengupahan, khususnya di pekerjaan atasan (profesional dan pengurusan, terutamanya di sektor awam dan GLC)
3. Pembangunan syarikat dan keusahawanan (PKS, GLCs, perolehan awam, pembangunan vendor, geran dan pinjaman, kewangan mikro, bantuan latihan dan perundingan) –bidang-bidang ini mesti menekankan pembangunan keupayaan; ada skop dalam kewangan mikro untuk menyasarkan golongan miskin/B40 daripada semua golongan etnik
4. Pemilikan kemewahan dan harta (unit trust, peruntukan saham, diskaun rumah/harta)
Suatu proses bawah-ke-atas perlu dititkberatkan dan digubal secara sistematik, memfokuskan pembangunan keupayaan, daya saing dan keyakinan sebagai pemacu utama.
Bidang polisi di bawah tema (B) lebih rumit daripada penawaran keperluan asas di bawah tema (A) di atas, dan lebih sesuai berpandukan prinsip keadilan, yang juga diharap lebih mudah difahami dan diterangkan ke rakyat jelata.

Informasi Tambahan: