I refer to the recent statement by Tun Daim Zainuddin that Malaysia should replace the New Economic Policy (NEP), adopted in 1971 which is based on race, with a new one based on needs.
PKR chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had also mooted the same idea.
In fact, all Malaysians welcome this change as the old policy had failed the country, resulting in cronyism, corruption and abject poverty in many parts of the country.
As indicated by both Anwar and Daim, the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia are still the poorest groups in the country.
Surely this group of people with such low incomes and opportunities reflects on the failure of the NEP as it was supposed to elevate the poor and marginalised people to be on par with the rest of the population.
For the last 50 years, the NEP has proved to be a complete failure as far as some of the bumiputeras are concerned as they have not progressed as envisaged and in many cases, left further behind in terms of education, healthcare and income levels.
It is therefore timely for a change of policy to assist groups who are most in need of assistance.
Some of the rural bumiputeras today are the ones who are most in need of assistance as they are isolated from major population centres through lack of connecting roads, deprived of most medical benefits through distances to medical centres and generally poorly educated as schools are remote and lack basic amenities as well as resources.
Another failure is that it failed to help many non-bumiputeras who deserved to benefit from affirmative action. For example, the Indian poor, especially from the rural estate communities, are one of the main groups that are still in poverty until today.
The data of results from the NEP showed that the share of wealth of non-bumiputeras increased to 46.8% in 1990; however of this 46.8%, 44.9% of the share belonged to the Chinese, only 1% to the Indians and 0.7% to Others.
We need to urgently address the poverty problems of the Indian poor community. We cannot let there be a segment still living in poverty in our society.
There has also been some abuse of the NEP. Undeserving individuals who have enough capacity to fend for themselves but were given a free ride on the NEP.
Another group of people who are in need of assistance are those with medical problems ranging from mental to physical handicapped and the old, aged people.
These people have little means to seek assistance on their own and in most cases are a real burden to those taking care of them.
The almost 24-hour watch over them makes it almost impossible for their care givers to successfully compete with others for better jobs, pay and privileges which leave them at the mercy of their bosses and also financial sponsors.
Malaysians are loving people as proven throughout history. We should work to preserve our heritage of taking care of those most in need.
Regardless of cultural differences, all of us came to the world through divine intervention. Who are we to cast aside these people who have been put into our care?
Regardless of who they are; it is more important to look at ourselves as human beings and take care of those who are most in need of our assistance.
PHILIP WONG PAK MING,
• Philip Wong is the director of Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa), an entrepreneur and author, and is passionate about travelling, having visited over 100 countries to date. Sipa is dedicated to the betterment of Malaysia for a more prosperous, harmonious and fair society.