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Recently we have another reminder of how deviations to the intent of the New Economic Policy even to the extent of contravening the provisions of the Malaysian Constitution - continue to be practiced and further expanded ( Housing industry: Bumi quota a pressing issue ).

This issue - in the form of the imposition of a bumiputra quota in housing was raised in a paper by the past president of the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association which was delivered to the 14th Malaysian Law Conference. The paper shows the extent of deep entrenchment and pervasiveness of racially-biased administrative regulations and other policy instruments in a vital sector of the economy all in the name of restructuring and reducing inequality.

Such discriminatory practices run against economic logic and social justice. They increase the cost of doing business in housing for the developers and add unfairly to the housing price of non-Malay purchasers. They are also damaging to social cohesion. Few other issues arouse so much dissatisfaction with non-Malays than the knowledge that they have to pay more for a house purchase simply because of their ethnicity.

Many Malays are in agreement with the view that this is a bad and unnecessary policy which encourages a hand-out and subsidy mentality as well as rent-seeking and other abusive practices. Malay friends, in fact, tell me that there are ashamed of this requirement, and that there is no good reason why the requirement of a bumiputera housing quota and the accompanying discount to purchasers should be imposed, let alone continued.

The principle that purchasers of housing or any other public or private good or service should be treated in exactly the same way in how ethnicity impacts on pricing and access should be scrupulously observed by all parties in the country especially the government. In no other country in the world is there an attempt to practice official price discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.

The government will deserve the stigmatisation and odium that is attached to this form of discrimination should it persist with it and other similar policies.

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