Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak may not realise it yet, and Umno warlords may not understand the concept but an overwhelming number of young Malaysians, including Malays, want merit-based policies.
A comprehensive survey commissioned by a non-governmental organisation and carried out by international polling outfit shows that 92 per cent of Malay professionals aged between 21 and 41 support the liberalisation of the economy and prefer the country’s policies to be anchored on meritocracy.
Not surprisingly, 100 per cent of Indians and Malaysian Chinese in the same age group support liberalisation and merit-based policies. Some 1600 Malaysians in the peninsula and 800 Sabahans and Sarawakians were polled in the survey, which was completed on April 29.
The Malaysian Insider got sight of some of the survey findings. The poll was commissioned to gauge the sentiment of Malaysians on a range of political and economic issues.
Since becoming prime minister on April 3, Najib has hitched his survival and the political fortunes of Umno-Barisan Nasional to the 1 Malaysia concept.
He has announced the removal of the 30 per equity requirement for several sectors in the services industries and liberalised the financial services sector.
At the same time, Najib has also spoken about making equality among races a cornerstone of his administration.
Thirty days after taking office, the jury is still out on whether Najib will be able to walk the talk on his IMalaysia concept, especially with opposition from Umno warlords who have been uneasy with his proclamation that Umno should represent all Malaysians.
Still, he will be cheered by the fact that an overwhelming percentage of young, educated Malays support merit-based over race-based policies and liberalisation.
In the general elections in 2008 and in by-elections since then, BN component parties have finished second best in the fight for the vote of younger Malaysians.
The findings – that young Malays, Chinese and Indians are on the same page as far as meritocracy and liberalisation are concerned – could embolden Najib to ignore Umno warlords who would prefer that affirmative action programmes be strengthened.
Political analysts believe that Najib has little choice but to dismantle, piece by piece, the New Economic Policy put in place by his father, Tun Abdul Razak.
And the drive for this move is not only to regain the political support of non-Malays who have come to associate the excesses of the NEP with Umno, the ruling party for the past half a century. There is also an economic imperative to open up Malaysia.
Najib is likely to take his 1 Malaysia pitch directly to all communities in the next few weeks – perhaps an acknowledgement of the inability of BN component party leaders to connect with the communities they represent.
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Malaysians all for merit-based policies