Change fate of Bumiputera, do not be ashamed to emulate the Chinese

29 Feb 2024 05:42pm
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (right) when attending the second KEB which took place in September 1968.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (right) when attending the second KEB which took place in September 1968.

Delving into the history of the Bumiputera Economic Congress (KEB), it was first initiated by first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj in 1965 at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall in Kuala Lumpur.

As a result, a total of 70 resolutions were approved, including the proposal to replace the name Rida (Rural & Industrial Development Authority) with Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) and the establishment of Bumiputera Bank funded by the government.

The second KEB, inaugurated by second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 1968, was believed to have paved the way for the implementation of the New Economic Policy (DEB), ultimately providing opportunities for the development of Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

It is widely known that Umno was the party that pioneered the organisation of this congress, with the aim of uplifting the position of Malays and Bumiputeras in the country's post-independence development.

Since then, every policy formulated, planned and implemented by the government can be said to be based on this congress, in addition to receiving input through resolutions achieved in the annual Umno General Assembly.

In fact, about 10 congresses like this have been organised by Umno since the post-independence period.

Five of them still retained the name KEB, including KEB 2024, while the other five used different names such as the Islamic Economic Congress and the Malay Economic Congress 2012.

However, the implementation of hundreds of new resolutions and the formulation of policies and strategies born from the discussions of KEB have not been able to improve the socio-economic status of the Bumiputera to be on par with other ethnic groups.

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Therefore, when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announced that KEB 2024, led by Umno, will be one of the important agendas of the Madani Government to revamp and boost the socio-economic development of Bumiputeras comprehensively, many were still skeptical.

Thus, National Professor Council (MPN) senior fellow Dr Muhammad Asri Mohd Ali said hundreds of KEB initiatives would be in vain if the mindset of the Bumiputera community was still stuck and heavily dependent on government aid.

He said it was time for the organisers and participants of KEB to no longer consider outdated methods in driving the socio-economic development of Bumiputeras, such as continuing to place the government as the main pillar or main institution in restructuring their economy.

"Imagine, the Malaysian Development Plan (RMK) has reached the 12th edition, but the fate of Bumiputeras is still the same. The bureaucrats implementing the government's policies now lack the spirit of nationalism as in the era of Tun Abdul Razak's administration.

"That's why I hope the organisers will no longer focus KEB's agenda on the government as the main pillar of its implementation.

"KEB 2024 should not be ashamed to emulate the ability of the Chinese community to solve education issues through Dong Zong (Association of Boards of Management of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools) and the economy through their business chambers without relying on the government," he said yesterday.

With the world now being driven by various economic reforms, Asri emphasised that it was time for the Bumiputera community to establish an institution that independently drove the economic growth of Malays, similar to the Dong Zong association or Chinese business chambers.

He added that this institution should then collaborate with the Bumiputera diaspora who worked or did business abroad to leverage their international trade network access.

"In this context, the government can act as a facilitator to create a Bumiputera Diaspora Excellence Centre in major trading cities around the world, as done by South Korea and Japan.

"This Excellence Centre is important to allow Bumiputera diasporas to provide information about the trade specifications needed by foreign companies and authorities to enable Bumiputera entrepreneurs to export products there.

"With the existence of this facility, the Bumiputera diasporas can choose to continue working and receiving lucrative salaries abroad through this centre or become consultants to Bumiputera companies part-time," he said.


Meanwhile, Malaysian Bumiputera Contractors Association president Datuk Dr Azman Yusoff has a contrary view.

He said to ensure Bumiputera contractors can compete with other races, they still needed help and political commitment from the government to change their fate.

"The fact is that the majority of Bumiputera contractors still depend on government projects and it is difficult to compete for private projects because the supply chain for construction industry goods is still controlled by non-Bumiputera entrepreneurs.

"Therefore, for us, the Bumiputera quota still needs to be maintained. The government should also provide banking guarantees for each project tender approved to avoid the widespread "Ali Baba" project activity," he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Islamic Consumer Association (PPIM) secretary-general Datuk Dr Ma'amor Osman emphasised that KEB 2024 needed to highlight the need to review any past policies or economic policies that have not achieved their set goals.

He said when the root causes of the failure of past policies were identified, KEB 2024 needed to outline a resolution on how the Bumiputera community can solve the problems hindering the relevant policies promptly.

"DEB is always associated with achieving a two-fold increase in Bumiputera economic share to 30 per cent. Now that target has not been achieved, we need to find the root causes immediately, not wait for another 20 years.

"Second, the Madani Government must also learn from the mistakes of past governments. The management mandate of government agencies focusing on Bumiputera economic development cannot be entrusted to incompetent officials. It will be disastrous," he said.

In another development, Ma'amor also suggested that KEB 2024 identify how the Bumiputera community can control segments of the construction industry supply chain.

He said it was regrettable that 85 per cent of construction industry supply chain providers were non-Bumiputeras.

"What's wrong with the government establishing a cooperative to control the construction industry supply chain in each Parliament?

"In addition, government agencies that handle the marketing of Bumiputera entrepreneurs' products domestically and abroad should not do something without any consideration or concern for others (melepaskan batuk di tangga).

"Ministers need to monitor and take decisive action against any officers behaving like the deep state (daulah terpendam)," he said.