Did BN’s Bumiputera policies backfire?

Over the years, the National Economic Policy became an affair of the elite, leaving the masses stuck in the mirage of the ‘Malay Dream’.

Amir Ali, FMT

The Barisan Nasional (BN) is having its back against the wall, accused of all sorts of misgivings and of being unfit to continue to rule the nation.

But the real question is what has the BN not done for the majority community in the country?

And this question leads us to a series of questionable policies that have failed the Malays, contrary to the assertions by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former prime minister has insisted time and again that the BN’s policies have benefited the Malays, creating wealth for them and helping them to keep their political and economic strength.

If that was the case, then why is it that a large majority of Malay citizens are still part of the middle class while the poverty level has also increased among the Malays?

Why are there only a handful of really rich Malays (millionaires and billionaires) if the policies promoted by the BN for the past decades had really benefited the Malay-Muslim majority in the country?

Why is it that many Malays are struggling to achieve a certain level of economic strength despite the National Economic Policy (NEP) favouring the Malays?

The answer to that, according to Mahathir, is that the Malays are lazy and that instead of taking advantage of the facilities offered to them, they converted the “goodies”, especially tailor-made for Malays, into cash machines.

They sold their rights and businesses to non-Malays and this benefited the non-Malays while it only made those who were granted the goodies temporarily rich.

It can be argued that parts of these assertions are true. There were always stories about how some greedy businessmen from the Malay community took advantage of the system only to turn the projects into cash cows.

NEP, an ‘affair of the elite’

There were always stories of how they would sell the tenders, the projects and the contracts to others in order to make the easier money instead of being involved fully in the deals.

And there were surely cases where some members of the majority community would siphon off the money rather than invest in the earmarked projects.

All these tales have not helped the Malay-Muslim community in the country and it is this lack of tact from some people that has caused the community to be behind schedule of the NEP.

The fact is that the authorities formulated policies that were made to benefit the masses but only a few, well-placed people with connections made it to the top.

In their march to success, these members of the community failed to distribute the goodies and the benefits they earned to the masses.

They probably thought their success were their personal achievements and was not achieved with a helping hand from the state.

They also forgot, only too fast, that the financial, structural or logistic aid they received was designed to uplift the entire community.

Over the decades the NEP became an affair of the elite, of those who were rising while the masses were stuck in the mirage of the “Malay Dream”.

The BN and Umno are trying very hard to get the support from the Malay-Muslims in the next general election. But the ruling coalition does not have the same “panacea” that they had before.

The reason is that the Malay-Muslim community in general does not believe the NEP helped them or made them rich.

No benefits

Most of the goodies handed over by the BN during the course of this year have only been in the form of temporary aid and have been limited to a class of people that would probably have voted for the BN anyway.

The Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia, too, is not a populist step as it reflected that only those who are really struggling can benefit from this policy.

Under the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi regime, there was much hooray about the new-found pro-Muslim policies under the concept of “halal” industries and businesses.