Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today dismissed the assertion that only those at the top had benefitted from the New Economic Policy (NEP).
He said the policy had greatly changed the socio-economic status of the people in the country.
The deputy premier said in terms of eradicating poverty, the government had succeeded in reducing the poverty rate from over 50 percent prior to the introduction of the NEP to five percent now.
"So, I totally reject the contention that the NEP has benefitted only certain groups," he was quoted as saying by Bernama .
Under the NEP, he said, poverty eradication was not focused only on the Malays because it had also created many opportunities for the non-Malays to the extent that many non-Malay corporate leaders had become rich during the period of its implementation.
"Many non-Malays have received the spillover and contracts from the government and also certain approvals," he added.
There are weaknesses
Najib was responding to Penang Education and Economic Planning Committee chairman Dr Toh Kin Woon that the policy was only for the elite, especially those who are close to the leaders.
Toh, member of the Barisan Nasional (BN) Gerakan party, said this during a forum in Penang yesterday which was also attended by representatives from the opposition parties.
The NEP was introduced in 1970 with the objective to eradicate poverty and restructure society. It ended in 1990.
Acknowledging that there were several weaknesses in the implementation of the policy, Najib said the government had tried to correct this, especially regarding approaches which were unsuitable and which did not bring about the desired results.
"But to reject the NEP, to say that the NEP is only for the rich and for certain individuals, is not acceptable," he added.
The NEP had become a heated topic of late when two studies revealed that the 30 percent target for bumiputera corporate equity ownership had been achieved.
The government however has rejected this and said that affirmative actions would continue.