You have to hold your breadth and maybe your disbelief when someone opens up the NEP (New Economic Policy) debate at a late dinner in Chilli’s Midvalley.
Surprisingly it ended up being fairly amicable.
There were two strands of thought. The veered away – that the policy started with many noble intentions and was necessary in the climate it came into being and has borne some tangible and longstanding benefits to the nation – however in the last twenty years or so has been sabotaged by the Umnoputras for self-engrandisement.
Then there is what my very vocal friend E___ would refer to as the junk policy – that it has always been wrong. A needs based policy is good and an obligation for all governments, but having a race based policy will lead to placing resources in the hands of those not needing it, and possbily open to abuse – as it eventually capitulated to.
I am convinced there are various arguments on both sides and we will have academic debates on the NEP and its reincarnation the New Development Policy (NDP) for decades from now, long after they have lapsed from Malaysian life.
The consensus was that the policy in the shape it exists today, harms Malaysia more than it benefits Malaysia.
This is not to discount the benefits – even if they are overwhelmed by the corruption, nepotism and neglect.
The sending of every capable and promising farmers or factory hand’s child to better education is a good, in any climate. The empowering of those in economically depressed areas to medium scale business like fish-ponds, trading and cottage industry will benefit all of us in way of increasing the average income of Malaysians.
That does not denude the various ills, nay the brazen pilfering of the wealth of this nation for the benefit of a small group of people. The know-who culture which has run roughshod over principled and reasoned business/social models.
On how the projects are made bigger and bigger and primarily on manufacturing, because there is size.
Don’t get more teachers with higher pay in schools, just keep building schools or other buildings in schools for the sake of getting the contracts out to friendlies. Need not fret over the abandoned buildings coming out of that endeavour.
Or even mask government procurement as something to be secretive and mostly limited to few players. The players are often bumiputera firms, but they are the ones allied to those deciding.
There is a loss of purpose in the pursuit of appeasing one part of the electorate while displacing many others.
The story is common and been told and retold. And many people have made the conscience choice to choose a needs based policies when it comes to helping Malaysians.
This is somewhat vindicated by the way the votes went in the general election, however many of us are unsure and confused on how to make the changes happen, if we are in the position to change things.
Many have noted that the bold and unrestrained styles of many opposition leaders since they have taken leadership roles after March has been well, less bold and noticeably restrained.
The job of running states and an active parliamentary delegation is more staid and dry than for the many in the streets who expect the new bunch of leaders to seamlessly lead us to the utopia we have in our minds.
We have to be realistic, as politics is the business of the possible, and when idealism meets reality, many times we compromise more than we have to.
So Lim Eng Guan, Khalid Ibrahim, Azmin Ali and a slew of Pakatan leaders have to move alongst those lines, those lines of acceptability.
Yet, I think the way to break the mental control NEP has on our economic and more important our poliical think is through moral leadership.
There are things that need to be opposed, irrespective of the political capital you lose, because it is the right thing to do.
The Selangor government failed that test when they chose to let race be an issue for the PKNS supremo choice.
Something before dessert
And travelling back to our dinner table in what was a quickly dissipating restaurant. I rather be convinced that the people were leaving because it was late, and not because we were in very active debate at our table.
There was more ability to compromise than usual. I put that down to the fact there were more fathers at the table than five years ago. Age has a way of making people more reasonable.
My mate said that those changes can only happen when a male muslim would espouse ideas of fairness and moral compass before the electorate. I disagree on that. If the ideas are of change, then the ideas not the person delivering it must matter. There is a language of delivery, and there is a need for strategy, however if we are trying to revolutionise the nation, we might want to revolutonise ourselves to believe Malaysians are going to be ready for the message, not the messenger.