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The Economy of Truth October 11, 2006

Posted by elizabethwong in Aufheben, Current Affairs, Economy, Malaysia, Politics, Race Relations.

One will find it hard to recall the last time a survey or study here has been withdrawn, as in the case of ASLI/CPPS, more so when the research team stands firmly behind it.

In a “normal” academic situation, when a body of study is presented, there will no doubt be challenges and debates, otherwise one will have just cause for worry. Either that or this team will be on its way to win the next Nobel Prize for Economics.

I, for one, have been looking forward to an ASLI/CPPS seminar, where they would publicly defend their work amidst variant strands of economists and statisticians. Suffice to say, this isn’t going happen, and it will go the way of, for example, the Suqiu memorandum.

It bodes ill when a research team has to define itself as “multi-racial” in order to justify its results be taken seriously. Poverty doesn’t discriminate. Neither does altruism, in this case.

While I hesitate to go into the arguments over measurement and indicators, two things must be said:- (1) The usage by the Government/Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of par values to calculate equity is extremely problematic and should be done away without delay. (2) The assumption by ASLI of Bumiputra equity shares in Government-Linked Corporations (GLCs) amounting to 70% is arguable, though this may well be not too far from the truth.

The NEP (though theoretically ended in 1990, its successor is still referred to the former) holds the following assumption:- That it takes 30% Bumiputra equity to eliminate the ethnic identification of economic status and occupation. If we examine the statistics in occupation, education etc., the answer is clear to all.

So, if ASLI/CPPS proposal that the 30% benchmark has been achieved, it not only upsets the raison d’etre of the ruling Malay party, UMNO; it also brings forth a crucial question to a sizeable chunk of society – why hasn’t this grand wealth trickled down to them?

A friend of mine painted a picture of the masses turning on the actual beneficiaries of NEP (read: the rich and richer).

This projection, if only it were true, is pretty, but the reality is that it is not that easy to undo 36 years of social conditioning and propaganda. Especially when one doesn’t possess similar counter-tools such as the mass media (here, defined in opposition to the English, Chinese, Tamil media). Class solidarity is weaker today more than ever.


There is a reason why there is a surge of inter-and-intra elite debates over national equity and distribution of late (no, it’s not because Abdullah Badawi is a kind liberal man). Its surface manifestation is predictably coloured as Malays vs. the rest.

The truth of the matter is that the economic pie hasn’t grown to provide an adequate means of placating the usual cliques, which is increasingly supplanting by a new emerging group of cronies and contract-junkies. This conflict will intensify in the coming years.

To a certain extent, I am beginning to wonder now if the recent Lee Kuan Yew vs. Malaysia spat is convenient, playing right into the hands of these elites – each segment comforted by the fact that the status quo is the only way.

But there is a limit to the use and abuse of identity politics. And enough of this fluffy liberal nightmare of happy shiny middle-classy multi-coloured people holding hands to bring world peace – well in this case, “Peace Malaysiana”.

A paradigm shift doesn’t come neither easy, nor does erasing decades of social conditioning. There will be sweat, tears and blood. It cannot and will not be resolved by sitting in an air-conditioned symposium talking amongst ourselves or to the converted.

This is why Dr. Lim Teck Ghee of CPPS should be saluted, for standing up to the powers-that-be. And people like Anwar Ibrahim and Khalid Ibrahim who displayed the courage and conviction to say on record to the rakyat:- That NEP should be dismantled.

Question is: Will you rise up and be part of this paradigm shift?

The Truth, too can be economical.


1. oxygendeprivation - October 17, 2006

Let’s hope we are getting the transparency that is being promised by DPM. By the way, did he promise? Oops, he said “if there is still doubt, ….”. No timeline, sorry.

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