By P PREM KUMAR, ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN
Malaysia’s economic progress will depend on the government’s ability to empower the private sector without neglecting marginalised Malaysians, said PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Speaking at the Malaysia: A New Dawn Investors’ Conference yesterday, Anwar said the economy needs to be driven by the private sector and foreign direct investments (FDIs) that must be balanced with “needs-based affirmative action”.
He said needs-based affirmative action does not segregate by race, but based on particular needs.
Anwar, who served as Malaysia’s finance minister from 1991 to 1998, said the economy should be private sector-driven, but with care for the needy.
“Some of us see pro-market reforms at the expense of a large segment of the Malays; some (believe) the country may suffer, particularly at the expense of the poor and marginalised,” he said.
Needs-based affirmative action must be “vigorously implemented”.
“We cannot propel economic growth without making Malaysia thrive with FDI.
“Such policies should warrant an inclusive, clear and transparent policy, but it doesn’t mean we neglect the plight of the poor.
“It’s not a zero-sum game. If we choose to embark on market reforms, it shouldn’t be an excessive capitalistic notion — ignoring the poor and the marginalised,” said Anwar, who is contesting in the Port Dickson by-election in an effort to return to Parliament.
Anwar also said it is necessary for the removal of patronage and special rights in transactions and activities, so that “everyone has skin in the game, from the government to the private sector to the public”.
He added that the government must do away with thinking that the Malays cannot compete with other races, and that as a Malay, it is an insult when this stereotype is continually perpetuated.
“The lack of opportunity transcends race. By sheer numbers, probably the Malays have more problems, but clearly the issue of poverty and inequality is not a notion affecting a particular race.
“The sooner we Malaysians acknowledge that, the better for the country as a whole to be deemed as inclusive or more dynamic and inclusive,” said Anwar.