Keeping the wolves at bay

I hate prejudice, discrimination, and snobbishness of any kind — it always reflects on the person judging and not the person being judged. Everyone should be treated equally.

Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister  

Reap the rewards of your own honest and hard work.

This is the basic precept related to work ethics as espoused by all religions, cultural value systems and morally accepted norms in all societies.

Allowing people to receive the fruits of their labour and industriousness is one of the human rights that should be promoted and protected.

A nation built on these values has strong and sustainable economic foundations.

Promoting an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the populace is at the centrepiece of the economic policies of all successful nations.

However, all government policies to encourage and sustain economic activities must be fair.

The unfair application of economic policies in Malaysia once again came into sharp focus a few weeks ago.

The Federation of Malaysian Freight Forwarders highlighted their concerns about requirements that would require their members’ logistics companies to make arrangements to ensure that 51 percent of their equity belongs to Bumiputeras.

At this point, I will just give a short recap on the origins of these affirmative action economic policies via the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The NEP was a social re-engineering and affirmative action programme that was initiated in 1971 for 20 years to uplift the Bumiputera community in various socio-economic fields.

As such these types of affirmative action’s programmes are good for the nation overall. The original concepts behind them are commendable.

However, in 1991 the government took the view that these affirmative action policies still needed to be pursued and was extended via the National Development Policy (NDP).

While the aims of the NDP continue to be noble in intention, the practical applications are in some fields nowadays seen to be at the expense of the non-Bumiputera community and also essentially beneficial to a coterie only.

Personally, I have no axe to grind, as I am not a business operator of any nature. I am a mere employee in a private company which will be put out to pasture next year as I approach my retirement.

However, I do feel it is important that our government policies provide a level playing field to all in the economic sector.

I do wholeheartedly support affirmative action policies because they are needed to uplift segments from time to time. However, these should be criteria based on merit and or economic background across all races.

Such an approach will create a genuine pro-business environment and enlarge the economic pie in Malaysia across the board. The multiplier effect will thereafter spur on the economy on a sustainable basis.

Limiting and tying the hands of the non-Bumiputera business community in the economic sphere harms not only the non-Bumiputeras but also the Bumiputeras in terms of the lack of spin-off business and employment opportunities.

Such new business opportunities are sorely needed, especially now to revive Malaysia from the effects of the pandemic.

The entire approach to affirmative action policies needs a complete overhaul and a genuine free enterprise system with permits and licenses issued based on proper criteria would do wonders for our economy.

These current discriminatory economic policies also do not support the efforts towards national unity. In fact, it makes national unity an even more illusory concept.

On the one hand, our prime minister is now promoting the concept of Keluarga Malaysia and on the other hand, poles apart, the concept of economic apartheid.

In a keluarga are family members made to forcibly divest their hard-earned equity to another? They can help each other, but must not be made to give up their hard-earned businesses.

The share equity policy seems to have been hijacked and only brought benefit to those who are already wealthy, with influence or connections leaving the majority of Bumiputeras behind, the very people who it is meant to have benefited.

Some of our national politicians are quick to condemn discrimination in other countries but are blind to the practices they have implemented here.

We must not push the loyal Malaysians to the point that they give up and become unproductive, leave the country or are driven to take a hard-line stance to address the injustices caused by inequitable laws and policies.

The basic principles of trade from religious perspectives are justice and fairness. The concept ‘Deal not unjustly, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly’ is essential.

Reaping the rewards of your hard work is certainly cause for celebration, but first, you must focus on sowing the seeds that will provide those future rewards.

The views expressed are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.