Malaysia: Mahathir advisers propose review of Malay privileges to spur economy

  • Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s hand-picked advisers have recommended changes to Malaysia’s Bumiputra policy, a set of affirmative action measures designed to lift the social welfare of the majority ethnic Malays. The policy, introduced in 1971, grants a wide range of privileges – from scholarships to access to government contracts – based on ethnicity rather than merit.
  • Past attempts to revise the policy have been met with strong protests from conservatives, including Mahathir, who argued that Malays would be diminished in their own birthplace without state support.
  • According to a statement from the Council of Eminent Persons, the Bumiputera agenda is to be looked at from the view of enhancing Malaysians’ socioeconomic well-being.
  • “Any program proposed and developed should not be to the detriment of economic growth nor at the expense of other social groups,” council head Daim Zainuddin said. “Another new area that the council is excited about is a recommendation on improving education for our children, who are the future of our nation. And not just for the Bumiputera, but for all Malaysian children.”
  • The suggestions from the advisory council were part of a report, completed on 20 Aug 18, recommending the government review decade-long policies seen as promoting abuse of power and hampering progress.
  • The report proposed a new framework for investment incentives that are “outcome-based,” so that they promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, he said.
  • The country’s fiscal position would be strengthened with a revised tax policy, aiming to increase the government coffers after the abolishment of the goods and services tax – a crucial revenue source.
  • The recommendations, if adopted by the government, would overturn long-held practices.
  • But it is not clear whether ethnic Malays, who account for about two-thirds of the country’s population, would accept any revision to the Bumiputra policy. If implemented without a wide consensus, the revision could push the conservatives to throw their support behind the opposition, led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)

External Link: