Congress to review bumi economic transformation, not replace NEP

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Government launches new bumiputera policy painted as beneficial to all.

The Bumiputera Economic Congress 2024 (BEC) is aimed at reviewing the bumiputera economic transformation by correcting its shortcomings in terms of implementation and not replacing the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Foreign Minister Mohamad Hasan said this was because the congress’ main objective was to restructure the participation of bumiputera in the economic sector more openly and transparently.

“The Bumiputera Economic Transformation (BET) that is being highlighted as a policy to move things forward does not replace the NEP.

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“Instead, this congress looks at the successes achieved, including the setting up of government agencies as a result of the first and second BEC and to review all the successes, failures and weaknesses, and what needs to be improved,” he said on the first day of the three-day congress in Putrajaya yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi officiated the congress at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

The congress, organised by the Economy Ministry and the Rural and Regional Development Ministry through Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara), aims to look for new approaches and directions and to improve the bumiputera empowerment agenda more fairly and inclusively.

Mohamad, who is Umno vice-president, said policies to empower the bumiputera economy need to be transformed according to current developments and keep in step with the global and digital economies.

He said the BEC 2024 was the government’s efforts to rejuvenate the bumiputera economy and enlarge the national economic pie so that restructuring can be carried out transparently and openly.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Azalina Othman Said said BEC 2024 represented a new dawn for Malaysians, especially the bumiputera, to face the challenges of a global economy in turmoil.

Deputy Rural and Regional Development Minister Rubiah Wang shared that the congress emphasised BET as their achievements have yet to meet a satisfactory target even though economic empowerment has long been the main agenda.

She stressed that bumiputera participation in various economic sectors, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, needed to be intensified, particularly in new areas like the development of hydrogen and algae as new energy sources in Sarawak.

Also, Mara chairman Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki said Mara, set up through the first BEC in 1965, needed to be strengthened to ensure that bumiputera participation, ownership and control in economic sectors would be enhanced.

He said Mara had a huge ecosystem involving education, entrepreneurship and economic development as well as an annual budget of RM3.9 billion to ensure that the resolutions from BEC 2024 could be monitored, coordinated and assessed to help realise the success of the bumiputera empowerment agenda.

An observer from the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Tricia Yeoh, said BEC 2024 was inclusive as the development of the national economy did not solely involve the bumiputera but also other minorities, ensuring overall growth.

“As a think tank, bumiputera economic development is vital as they are the majority in the country. If they do not progress in various fields, how will the country grow and develop rapidly?” she asked.

Finally, Higher Education Ministry adviser Prof Noor Azlan Ghazali said Zahid’s recommendation of empowering bumiputera through the BET policy would shed some light on the direction and approach that the government will take in the context of socio-economic justice, as well as a sustainable and prosperous country without neglecting other races.

Earlier, Zahid said the TEB has three goals, that is socio-economic justice; a sustainable nation-state; and prosperity for the country and well-being for the people.

“These three main goals are to ensure that policies and implementation of the country’s economic agenda not only ensure the involvement and rights of bumiputera, but at the same time, ensure that there is synergy with non-bumiputera.

Izzrafiq Alias/The Star

“Like it or not, willing or not, synergy between the races is important in stimulating economic activity,” he said in his keynote address at the Bumiputera Economic Congress.

He added that the goals aim to extinguish narratives that the economy is controlled by minorities – which he said causes unease among the majority race, which leads to social tensions.

Elaborating on the first goal for socio-economic justice, Zahid said the TEB aims to close the gaps between Malaysians and ensure that bumiputera are not left behind.

He said the government wants to shift the bumiputera mentality towards skilled-based education from being a second option to being the first choice for industries.

He said they are confident this can lead to an increase in skilled bumiputera labour, which is at 29 percent compared to other races at the moment.

He added that the government also seeks to continue to push for bumiputera equity ownership while ensuring the bumiputera agencies such as Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) continue to enhance bumiputera capability in all economic sectors.

On the second goal of nation-state sustainability, Zahid said the TEB must be a policy that stimulates the bumiputera economy and brings in investments.

He said they must also aim to become an international economic player instead of focusing just on the domestic market.

On this, he said that women should be empowered.

For the third goal of national prosperity and well-being for the people, Zahid said that when the bumiputera economy improves, so too will the country’s economy.

He also said that TEB would not only focus on empowering corporations, but also individuals to encourage financial independence which will lead to improved quality of life for all the rakyat.

Besides the TEB’s three goals, Zahid said the TEB also has six resolutions.

The first is to defend the existing bumiputera agenda, including equity ownership, education, and land ownership among others.

For example, Zahid said the New Economic Policy’s 30 percent bumiputera equity ownership goal has not been met, with it currently only at 17.2 percent.

Hence, he said the pursuit of these goals must continue.

The second resolution is to plug leakages when implementing bumiputera initiatives, including at the recipient stage.

The third resolution is to create equality between regions, races, and communities.

Elaborating on this, Zahid said there must be a balance in opportunities between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, as well as between races and communities.

“This step ensures that the bumiputera empowerment agenda is more equitable, and at the same time the chain of opportunity will have spillovers and benefits to other races and communities,” he said.

The fourth resolution is to identify new opportunities and keep up with trends and factors that influence the economy and industry needs such as the development and use of artificial intelligence.

The fifth resolution is to foster genuine relationships between the bumiputera and non-bumiputera economics.

“Through the TEB, we no longer want to create economic activities that are bumiputera in name only.

“We want Ali and Baba to truly function in carrying out business, for Ali and Baba to be involved in management, administration, and implementation of business.

“Not ‘Ali Baba’ that manipulates opportunities and takes the easy way to reap profits,” he said.

The sixth resolution is to ensure that other races and their rights are not sidelined.

Zahid claimed that history showed that the government’s efforts to empower the bumiputera did not cause any race in this country to be left behind.

“The same goes for implementation of the TEB, the rights of all races will continue to be protected,” he said.

Finally, Zahid said the TEB also has three endeavours.

The first is to create a Bumiputera Land Corporation to enhance bumiputera land ownership and ensure balanced racial demographics, continuity for agricultural and industrial lands as well as new settlements.

The second endeavour is on health and education.

Zahid mooted the creation of a waqaf (endowment) plan dubbed the “Waqaf Sihat dan Didik” (Sidik) – which would among others provide health facilities and equipment, finance treatment for chronic ailments, provide matching scholarships, and empower development programmes.

The third endeavour is to industrialise agriculture.

In his closing remarks, Zahid acknowledged that there had been weaknesses in implementing the bumiputera agenda in the past, but that it was now time to focus on moving forward.

He also said there was no need to be apologetic for fighting for a bumiputera agenda.

“We need not be apologetic in discussing major bumiputera agendas because we have never sidelined or violated the rights of other races.

“In fact, bumiputera have always respected the social contract which forms the basis of national harmony,” he said.