Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Keep NEM out of ultra-Malay hands'

Pakatan Rakyat and Gerakan Youth want the government to release the draft of the New Economic Model (NEP) immediately for public input, to prevent the economic transformation plan from being hijacked by Malay ring-wing groups.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang spearheaded the move, with a call to the cabinet to make the document public and to invite public consultation on the proposals.

NONELim (left) further urged the cabinet "not to allow irresponsible interest groups inimical to the 1Malaysia concept" to hijack and monopolise the formulation of the NEM.

He was commenting on speculation that announcement of the NEM will be postponed to June because of objections raised by Malay right-wing groups, which he described as "neo-NEP Umnoputras".

The Malay Consultative Council (MPM by its Malay abbreviation) has openly opposed the government's liberalisation policy and has asked for some affirmative-action policies under the old New Economic Policy (NEP) to be retained in the NEM.

Formed last month by Perkasa, which is headed by pro-BN Independent parliamentarian Ibrahim Ali, the MPM comprises 76 Malay NGOs.

Mohd Rafizi Ramli, the chief executive in the Selangor economic adviser's office, agreed with Lim's views.

NONE"Why are Perkasa and (former premier Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad) so important that the National Economic Advisory Council has to bow to them? If the consultation process is so important, why is it that only these extremists have been consulted?" he asked.

"If there is a need for consultation, they should consult the people and Pakatan, at least we are controlling a few big states. They should also consult parliamentarians and the industrial sector."

He expressed the worry that, if the new model is drafted and finalised behind closed doors, then the government might compromise with MPM's demands.

Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah has denied any delay in revealing the NEM, saying the announcement will proceed as scheduled at the annual 'Invest Malaysia' conference from March 30-31.

'Dismantle NEP'

A researcher attached to the Socio-Economic and Environmental Research Institute (Seri), stressed the need for political will in bring about economic reforms.

Lim Mah Hui, a senior fellow at Seri - the think-tank of the Penang government - said there is a need for the federal government to prevent ultra-Malays from commandeering the economic agenda.

"If the government wants to implement meritocracy, it will have to dismantle elements of the NEP," he said, but was pessimistic that major changes can be expected under the NEM.

Gerakan Youth secretary-general Dominic Lau also called on the government to provide details of the NEM for public consultation before implementing it.

"Under the 'Blue Ocean' strategy, this is called fair process. The government should have engagement with those outside (the administration)," he said.

He criticised Perkasa's demands as being 'unsuitable in the modern era".

"Malays were weak and need protection by the government in earlier days. However, the prime minister has proposed the concept of 1Malaysia. Government policy should therefore take care of all races, instead of one particular race," he added.

gerakan women forum 080306 mah siew keongIn a statement today, Gerakan vice-president Mah Siew Keong (right) also ticked off Perkasa for playing the race card.

On Monday, the NGO's economic bureau had reportedly said the Chinese view the next general election as the best opportunity to gain power, and that this is why the interests of Malays and bumiputeras should be secured.

"NGOs and politicians should not send the wrong signal to the world that the government is looking after the interests of only one community," responded Mah.

Subsidies and GST

Pakatan is also against the phasing-out of subsidies and proposed imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from the middle of next year.

Rafizi said the people will suffer the backlash under the prevailing economic situation, although the removal of subsidies may be good for the economy in the long term.

"Subsidies suppress the real cost and are not sustainable in the long term, so they have to be removed," he explained.

"But when people's income is suppressed and investments don't come in, there will be a problem if subsidies are removed suddenly."

Introduction of the GST and removal of subsidies can only save RM7 billion in government expenditure, and will not cover the current budget deficit of RM43 billion, he noted.

As such, he suggested that the government focuses on eradicating leakages and corruption, which were estimated to cost the nation RM28 billion, as stated in the auditor-general's most recent report.

Both Rafizi and Lim said the NEM should include structural reform of the government, in order to realise the country's full economic potential.

Rafizi said judicial reforms are crucial so that foreign investors have confidence in Malaysian laws and institutions of justice.

Lim suggested that the federal government should decentralise some of its powers over economic and tax matters, and delegate these to state governments.

courtesy of Malaysiakini

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