Ramasamy: NEP was subservient to a majoritarian agenda

NO other policy in the country has been analysed as much as the New Economic Policy (NEP).

The NEP, which was introduced in the immediate aftermath of the May 13, 1969 racial riots, was aimed at restructuring capital equity to ensure an effective Bumiputra participation and the removal of race with economic function.

Poverty eradication was one of the top priorities of the NEP.

The policy was supposed to last 20 years, officially coming to an end in 1990.

However, the policy was never ended to continue far beyond the stated date so much so it became to be termed not as the ‘New Economic Policy’ but ‘Never Ending Policy’.

A reading of the various analyses of the NEP would indicate the following.

First, it was a great policy with good intentions but was not properly implemented.

Second, the equity portion of the policy was progressive but later it was hijacked by the Bumiputra political and bureaucratic elite particularly those in Umno.

Third, restructuring never took place to remove the identification of race with economic function.

Fourth, the NEP was credited for the reduction of substantial urban and rural poverty.

It must be remembered that the politics in the aftermath of the racial riots was a different ball game altogether.

It was a complete Bumiputra agenda, and the NEP functioned under this agenda without having a life of its own.

Singing praises of the NEP does not address the overarching majoritarian agenda of the Umno under the BN Government.

The NEP was merely to soften and placate the roughness and unpalatability of the Bumiputra racial agenda. It was more of a buying-in public relations exercise more than anything else.

As the policy was unashamedly continued far beyond its original time period, the real purpose could not be submerged.

The notion of Bumiputra equity became slogan for the enrichment of the Bumiputra political and bureaucratic elite. While majority of the Bumiputra community suffered, a tiny elite that held political and bureaucratic power benefited enormously.

When there existed an explicit racial agenda, it is pointless to give credibility to the NEP from the perspective of policy and implementation.

Restructuring, in other words, was a joke not to be taken seriously.

The removal of the identification of race with economic function was merely a smokescreen to ensure the domination of the Bumiputra in all sectors.

However, this was easier said than done.

While the Bumiputra was emboldened by the restructuring component to dominate employment in the public sector, progress was not as smooth in the private sector, as government directives did not achieve the intended effects.

How can the restructuring component of the NEP be praised when it was never intended to be comprehensive in nature?

I really don’t understand why the NEP has been given so much credit in the eradication of poverty when it was not aimed at reducing income gaps between the races and within races.

There is no need to mistake the political propaganda of the NEP with the true intentions of the policy.

Sadly, there were no true or honest intentions but an attempt to hoodwink Malaysians.

Whether there was an NEP or not, the rapid thrust of urbanisation and commercialisation were the keys to poverty eradication.

It was not the slogan of the NEP that did the job but the nature of capitalist development.

It is my argument that the overarching Bumiputra agenda was the key reason why the NEP failed.

The NEP was the dependent variable or a public face to drive the majoritarian agenda.

Therefore, it does not make sense to endlessly argue that the NEP was something good but failed by way of implementation.

If such an argument is pursued it is merely an apology for the racist agenda.

The NEP was merely a stated instrument to hide or camouflage the true intentions of those in power for racial domination.

It was just propaganda or public face to mitigate or ameliorate the worst effects of a decadent ethnic agenda.

The very fact that the NEP had no timeline suggests the ulterior motives of those in power.

With the newly added religious agenda, the NEP is well entrenched for a long time. It would be a Herculean task to dismantle the racist system.

It remains hopeful that the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic would expose the system that has divided and pitted Malaysians against one another for many decades. – July 21, 2021.


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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