Eyeing A Jalil Hamid's opinion on the timely move to uplift Bumiputeras
EMPOWERED: Najib’s Bumiputera initiative is to ensure sustainable growth with equity
SHORT of rhetoric, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday outlined a concrete action plan to push the Bumiputera community up the economic ladder.
At a huge gathering attended by mostly Malays at UiTM, an iconic Malay institution, he unveiled five strategic thrusts to empower the Bumiputeras through education and in all sectors of the economy.
This comes at a very critical time. It was Najib and Umno's clear response to grumblings and grievances aired by the Bumiputeras on the ground of their struggles to keep up with the pace in terms of income, jobs, home ownership and businesses with other main races.
Some of these grievances are genuine and yet, they did not turn their back on Umno and Barisan Nasional in the 13th General Election.
They ensured that the BN remained firmly in power in Putrajaya despite the opposition onslaught. Najib acknowledged this in his fiery speech yesterday.
"We listen to your grouses. We also feel your pulses and your concerns. Yes indeed!!!... we hear you... we hear you, loud and clear."
He is aware that the government's gesture this time around through a myriad of initiatives will be met with scepticism by the Malays, some who feared that it could be nothing more than a smokescreen to reward party loyalists or selected businessmen rather than helping the deserving ones.
This has to be countered by showing some early results of the progress of the initiatives. There are also execution issues that his administration will have to contend with. These include doing away with onerous and time-consuming approval processes and paperwork.
Selecting start-up companies under the new scheme that will develop a core group of innovative and creative entrepreneurs, for example, should not involve a burdensome process that could take months.
Najib stressed the need to promote meritocracy in selecting the best Bumiputera companies to handle future jobs. For this to happen, there should be greater transparency and market-friendly approach to ensure that everything is above board.
At the end, the idea is to develop a new pool of Bumiputera entrepreneurs who are resilient, competitive, innovative and willing to take risks. The entrepreneurs, according to Najib, should be passionate in what they do.
We don't want to see a repeat of the old ways where Bumiputera businessmen choose to take the easy way out by selling out their contracts to other parties. In short, rent-seekers are just being dishonest themselves.
The whole concept of Najib's Bumiputera initiative is to ensure sustainable growth with equity. It is not about taking away the rights of other races. Rather, the government is seeking to grow the economic pie so that everyone, irrespective of race, will have a bigger share.
It has to be inclusive, too.
Empowering the Bumiputera economy does not mean denying other people's interests.
In a clear message to non-Bumis, Najib told the audience that what the government was doing was "fair, right and equitable".
Malaysia's social re-engineering, introduced since the May 13, 1969 incident, was meant at eradicating poverty and restructuring society.
That has been the well-accepted policy that has spawned great success especially in poverty eradication. The income gap between the Malays and the non-Malays has also narrowed sharply.
The Western press is bound to question the latest government initiative which could be construed as "entrenching Malaysia's race-based policies".
What they failed to realise is that no significant advanced country in the world gets by without affirmative action programme of some kind.
According to one economist, it is in human nature to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable in the society.