‘We have to be realistic’: Malaysia must abolish race-based policy to improve economy, Anwar says

“I am saying this as a person who has struggled,” the PKR head said.
Milken Institute

While Malaysia has had a race-based economic policy for the last 40 years, it is one of the things Prime Minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim wants to change immediately when he takes over.

The People’s Justice Party (PKR) head admitted at a Milken Institute Asia Summit dialogue in Singapore on Thursday (Sept 19) that a “deficit of democracy” and growing lethargy toward issues like inequality were some of his most disconcerting realisations about the country.

He added that there had been “hardly any focus or concern” around creating policies to deal with inequality.

“I am saying this as a person who is very much involved in politics, and who has struggled, and I am determined to prove that politics is not just the art of persuasion and the concert of power,” he said.

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“We must be prepared to do whatever it takes, whatever is deemed necessary to attract the best minds irrespective of race.”

Anwar added that reforms – including democratic access to education and enhanced language proficiency – could in turn attract more domestic and foreign investment and help revive the economy.

“We have to be realistic and accept the fact that for reforms to be effective and meaningful, you must start by energising the economy and making it work,” he added.

“It takes a lot of courage and conviction and tenacity and purpose to ensure that we do govern ethically, responsibly, and undertake reforms, beginning with economic reforms. You are not able to propel the economy (otherwise).”

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The politician admitted that dismantling the race-based policy and replacing it with a needs-based policy was “radical” and “difficult”.

Despite expected pushback from the Bumiputera majority, Anwar said he believed reason would prevail.

The Government would also have to engage the public, allay fears, and assure people that the new policy would create a corruption-free Malaysia, he added.

The haze is ecological warfare: Anwar


At the dialogue, Anwar also touched on the recent haze, describing it as “ecological warfare.”

“(Governments) can’t just say: ‘We have to study and take necessary measures so they don’t recur next year,'” he said, adding that companies found guilty of starting forest fires should be made to supply resources to ease health and environmental impacts of the haze.

He also said governments should take a more active role in policing fires, instead of blaming them on acts of God.

“Millions are affected, thousands of schools are closed. Millions spent by the common folk to buy pills, eyedrops, masks,” he said.

“You have been blaming God for the last two decades. God cannot be that cruel.”

Read also: 11 photos of the haze show just why Mahathir is writing to Jokowi about it