Dr M: NEP bred non-Malay tycoons too

Responding to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s criticism, the former premier says the policy saw the rise of many non-Malay millionairs and billionaires, like his ‘good friend’ Vincent Tan.

(Free Malaysia Today) – Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended his reign and implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) following criticism from Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Mahathir said the race-based affirmative action framework had also bred non-Malay billionaires like Vincent Tan and Robert Kuok, the Berjaya Group founder and sugar tycoon who made their fortunes under the NEP.

Earlier today Razaleigh, affectionately known as Ku Li, said the NEP was not meant to create an incubated class of Malay capitalists but was designed to help the poor and all Malaysians.

He also criticised the policy as a source of racial disunity which resulted in the country’s inability to capitalise on its diversity and forced it backward.

However, Mahathir disagreed.

“You can count the number of non-Malays who became millionaires or even billionaires during my time. My good friend Vincent Tan became a billionaire. Robert Kuok became a multi-billionaire during my time when the NEP was being implemented – the monopoly of sugar and flour gave him the kickstart,” he told reporters here today.

Just last week, Razaleigh chided the ruling Barisan Nasional for its endorsement of decades of patronage politics that arose from the Mahathir era.

He said the mix of business and politics ruined policies created by the country’s founding fathers and resulted in widespread corruption, the decay of social institutions and had widened economic inequality.

The Kelantan prince also said the NEP had been misused and had become a strong factor behind Malaysia’s worsening race-relations. He pointed to the Malay-majority civil service as an example.

Policies under the influential former prime minister’s rule had been under attack recently following the leniency showed by Putrajaya towards former national carrier chief Tajudin Ramli, the poster boy of Mahathir’s now-criticised programme to groom Malay corporate leaders.

Tajudin led MAS into a downward spiral, incurring record losses until it forced the Mahathir administration to intervene in what was perceived to be a controversial bail out. It was also seen as a way to save the former MAS chief.