Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Dr M to Petronas: Embrace NEP, do not dismantle policy

Mahathir agreed that he too had received similar complaints and had passed along the concerns to the top management of the petroleum company. — Reuters pic

Mahathir agreed that he too had received similar complaints and had passed along the concerns to the top management of the petroleum company. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — As a goverment-linked company, Petronas must toe the line and support government policies, in particular the New Economic Policy (NEP) which offers special rights to the Bumiputera community, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
Dr Mahathir, who is the national oil firm’s adviser, insisted that the present government under Datuk Seri Najib Razak has yet to dismantle the NEP, a controversial pro-Bumiputera affirmative action policy that was mooted in 1971 but implemented mostly during the former’s administration.
“The current government policy as far as I know, includes implementing the NEP. The government has not rejected the NEP.
“This means Petronas is also involved (in implementing the NEP),” the former prime minister told Sinar Harian when met at his Putrajaya office yesterday, according to the Malay paper’s report here.
But adding a disclaimer, Dr Mahathir said although Bumiputera firms should be accorded special treatment from Petronas, this must be based on merit.
“To protect (Bumiputera firms), it must be because of merits too. Those without any merit cannot be protected,” he was quoted saying in the daily’s report.
Dr Mahathir was responding to the newspaper’s report yesterday on complaints from NGOs like the Malay Economic Action Council, several Petronas vendors and petrol station operators against Petronas, which they alleged has begun sidelining Bumiputera-owned firms.
The former prime minister, according to Sinar Harian, agreed that he too had received similar complaints and had passed along the concerns to the top management of the petroleum company.
“My work (as adviser), I’ve informed the Petronas president (Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas) about these issues (complaints that Petronas for sidelining Malays),” he was quoted as saying in the daily.
Mooted in 1971, the NEP had an ambitious aim to redress the socio-economic gap between the largely-urban Chinese and the rural Malays as well as other indigenous Bumiputera, within the span of two decades.
It was implemented mostly during Dr Mahathir’s 22-year tenure but even the former prime minister, in his own words, had later admitted that the policy had somewhat created a “disabling culture of entitlement” among the Bumiputeras.
The NEP ended officially in 1990, but the key aspects of its Malay/Bumiputera-preferred action plan remains in various forms years later.
When he took on the reins of the country in 2009, Najib sought to burnish his reformist image with pledges to revamp the administration, even introducing the New Economic Model (NEM) to replace the NEP.
The NEM was launched by the sixth prime minister on March 30, 2010, with an eye on doubling the nation’s per capita income by the year 2020 to an estimated US$15,000 (RM49,500).
The three underlying themes of this dream were “high income, sustainability and inclusiveness”, as the prime minister stressed on the need to reduce fiscal disparity between the rich and poor without relying on affirmative action policies ala the NEM.
But faced with harsh objections from many within his own team, and even worse, from a large segment of the Malay-dominated Malaysian electorate, Najib has had to rollback on some of these pledges slowly over the years.
Just weeks before he sought re-election as Umno president this year, the prime minister announced a new Bumiputera economic agenda, which some have termed as the “pro-Bumiputera NEM”, effectively giving the NEP a new lease on life.
The new agenda offers country’s dominant community access to over RM30 billion in aid and contracts — an apparent continuation of the very system of NEP-like affirmative action that he had pledged to do away with under the NEM.
Najib’s critics were quick to respond.
From Pakatan Rakyat, DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang and his colleagues alleged that this new, stripped-down pro-Bumiputera NEM would only result in greater benefits for Umno’s upper echelon.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had also said that Bumiputera special privileges cannot justify Putrajaya’s decision to lavish billions on the community without care for the rest of Malaysia. 
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