..Although the NEP specified clearly the twin aims of eradicating poverty irrespective of race and the restructuring of society to eliminate the identification of economic function with race, other factors became more important in the public eye as measures of achievement.
One of these is the 30% target for bumiputra ownership in the corporate sector, the measurement of which is very flawed and which took on emotive tones and resulted in a slew of patronage opportunities, especially for those bumiputras who were relatively better off and could afford to buy shares.
Other administrative procedures made requirements such as only bumiputra companies being eligible for contracts, and specified a 30% bumiputra participation for companies which were listed, restructured, making acquisitions etc.
In the meantime, bumiputra contractors and service providers were established, and these were the people who were given substantial government work.
Non-bumiputra companies who were close to the ruling elite also got contracts. Some of their 30%-bumiputra partners were often selected by the government itself.
More often than not these transactions to satisfy conditions were opaque and could not be checked by the general public. Many bumiputra companies obtained contracts and then passed them on to other companies to complete, giving a new meaning to the term “subcontracts”.
Over the years, such procedures extended and the opacity, lack of open tenders and discretionary awards of contracts at all levels of government resulted in many projects and contracts being awarded not for the value that they brought to the public but merely for the high value of the projects. Often, contract values were inflated to way above market prices.
Privatisation of government services, especially of profitable ones, was seen as a rapid means of increasing bumiputra participation in the economy and rewarding those businessmen who were close to the Government.
The evidence today is that many of them, such as independent power producers and toll road operators, were given agreements severely weighted against the Government and the general public, giving huge profits to the ventures at the expense of the public. There was little or no danger of losing money from these projects.
The paradoxical effect of the NEP is that while it has made some gains in terms of eradication of poverty, which would have happened anyway with overall rapid development, it quickly created the momentum for a reward system based on patronage, which is costing the country very dearly.
The other insidious effect of this is that ethical standards have declined right across the board and everything, it seems, has been sacrificed at the altar of money. The making of money at all costs seems to be the prevalent credo. The reversal of the decline in ethical standards is among our greatest challenges.
Meantime, the education system was drastically overhauled since 1969 to accommodate two things – the Malay language and the composition of teaching staff to include more bumiputras.
The haste with which Malay was introduced, even at the pinnacle in institutions of higher learning, led to a rapid decline in the quality of English and curbed the ability to plug into world developments and knowledge in all fields.
This was made worse by dropping the standards required for teacher education, leading to a drop in quality of government schools, which in turn contributed to a mass exodus of Chinese students to Chinese schools where educational standards were considered to be much better.
Many local universities were established to increase the number of graduates but not enough was done to ensure the quality of education, leaving the bulk of their graduates, mostly Malays, unemployable. Politicians meantime campaigned actively to prevent courses being taught in English, even in universities.
The quest for equality of outcomes, rather than of opportunities, led to a decline in ethical standards. The deterioration of educational standards has dire implications for the future if we don’t reverse it.
The starting point is ethical standards. If we can put this right, then we will be on the way to getting the other two correctly aligned to usher in a new, better world for all Malaysians.
Barisan Nasional rule led to decline of ethical standards, English, retarded progress