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Malaysia’s New Economic Model:
Risks and Rewards
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AseanAffairs Magazine May - June 2010

Prime Minister Najib Razak vows to take Malaysia forward and transform it into a high income nation through economic and social reforms. Initial responses to this ambitious drive are mixed, details are scarce and investors play wait-and-see.Yet, Najib insists he’s got support to push ahead.

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Rolling Back Affirmative Action

Rajiv Biswas

In every country, reforms are risky. We are all human, and fear the uncertainty of changes. Therefore many fear that their living standards may deteriorate through such changes. In Malaysia, those who benefited from the previous system naturally may be resentful of changes that appear to be eroding their benefits. However, the reality is that Malaysia as a nation will face eroding living standards unless rapid economic reforms are implemented. There is a saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats” – Malaysia needs to choose between accelerating economic reforms and seizing the rising tide or facing a gradually receding tide that gradually erodes living standards.

Ramon Navaratnam

Affirmative action, according to the prime minister, will continue. It is not a roll-back. But we hope it will help the real poor and it will not be used to favour the political vested groups with pink forms and appplications and negotiated tenders and special permits and licences. If the new affirmative action follows the old model then the new economic model will go off the rails again. I hope that won’t happen.

Michael Yeoh

The new approach on affirmative action will be transparent and be based on merits and needs.

Jamaludin Ibrahim

I agree it is risky but has to be managed well and in phases. If, at the end of the day, everybody gains, the risk will be mitigated.

Mohamed Iqbal Rawther

The NEM is in my view a restatement of the NEP – New Economic Policy and the NDP – National Development Policy. There are weaknesses in the implementation and these weaknesses have become contentious issues.

To say that “the NEM attempts to do away with the affirmative action”, is not correct, in my view, the Bumiputra focus is being shifted to a natural focus. The Bumiputra affirmative action, I am sure, will be a key thrust within the inclusiveness segment of the NEM. Of course, it is a communication issue. The risks can be minimised with clear strategies.

Jeffrey Cheah

Affirmative action focuses on needs and merit and it is transparent. Hence it will gain more support as help will be given to those who need more help irrespective of race, but based on their needs.


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