PM: Plan to combat poverty for all

Govt’s emphasis on improving socio-economic status of Bumiputeras does not mean it is sidelining other races

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

THE Perikatan Nasional government plans to combat poverty for all Malaysians and not just the Bumiputera community, said Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He said wealth disparities in the country can be attributed to various factors including race, state and household income, and must therefore be addressed in a holistic manner.

“This is why our fight against poverty should not only be looked at from a racial lens, but also consider other aspects to ensure that the opportunities we create are fair and equal,” Muhyiddin told the Dewan Negara yesterday, citing federal plans in the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.

He said the government’s emphasis on improving the socioeconomic status of the Bumiputera community does not mean it is sidelining the interests of other races.

“The Bumiputera make up the majority of the country’s population at almost 70%, and that is why the government is focusing on them to develop the economy as a whole,” he said in a reply to Senator Razali Idris, who asked the PM to state the implementation and effectiveness of the Bumiputera Prosperity Council (MKB) created recently to help strengthen the Bumiputera community.

Muhyiddin said a major problem faced by the government to eradicate poverty is the lack of data containing complete information on the community’s current achievements in various economic sectors.

For that, the government has assigned the Bumiputera Agenda Steering Unit under the PM’s Department as the secretariat to coordinate and steer the Bumiputera agenda to increase the community’s share of the economy.

One of the government’s plans under MKB is to raise Bumiputera participation in a number of sectors including industrial, banking, manufacturing and electronics. However, unlike the National Economic Policy (NEP), the MKB will not set specific targets as a measure to gauge the effectiveness of the policy.

The federal government introduced the NEP following the racial riots in 1969 with the aim to redistribute wealth in favour of the Bumiputera community.

One of the long-held targets of the NEP was to have a 30% Bumiputera equity share in public-listed companies. It was recently revealed that the country has not only failed to achieve the target in the last 50 years, it has instead backtracked from 23% in 2011 to 16% in 2015.

Tun Dr Daim Zainuddin, an advisor to former PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had previously expressed doubt that the race-based quota — which has long been used as a benchmark to gauge Bumiputera participation in the economy — was derived from any studies.

In 2015, Bumiputera equity ownership in the corporate sector was 16.2% compared to non-Bumiputera at 30.7% and foreign ownership at 45.3%.