COMMENT | Ditching the bumiputera system? Three Utopian scenarios

Lee Hwok Aun

Modified 6 Feb 2021, 2:17 am

COMMENT | The question will inevitably touch raw nerves, and is being asked again, this time via a widely shared article by the former deputy governor of the central bank: Will bumiputeras ever relinquish the privileges they enjoy?

It is an important question to ask because the programmes providing bumiputera privileges - in higher education, public sector government-linked corporation employment as well as equity and property ownership - were not meant to be permanent.

Malaysia’s most transformative policies implied as much. The New Economic Policy (NEP), launched in 1971, aspired for bumiputeras to be “full partners” in the economy. In 1991, Vision 2020 proclaimed the goal of a “fully competitive bumiputera community… on par with the non-bumiputera community”.

As long as the bumiputera system persists, however, Malaysia will be stuck in a dilemma: the majority who receive preferential privileges will not be fully empowered, and the minorities will feel aggrieved at unequal access to various opportunities, notably public university and business loans...

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