Bumiputeras should no longer be spoon-fed by the Malaysian government, so that they can become more competitive and likely to succeed on their own, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday.
Tun Dr Mahathir, in his keynote speech at a congress organised by his Pakatan Harapan government to discuss the future of the country's dominant ethnic community, said it was time to start "training" bumiputeras - or sons of the soil - to work harder to change their future. "Cash aids like BR1M will only weaken us, we shouldn't wait for help to arrive. Rather, we should put in our own effort to overcome our weakness and change things," he said.
He was referring to the 1Malaysia People's Aid programme - known by its Malay abbreviation BR1M. Last year, more than seven million people from low-income groups each received a cash handout of up to RM1,200 (S$400) under the annual programme.
"We can pray... but if there's no effort, our skills will deteriorate," the Prime Minister said.
Dr Mahathir's administration had said in July it would review the country's affirmative action New Economic Policy (NEP) to align economic policies with needs and not race, to benefit all Malaysians.
Yesterday, he said business opportunities had been given to bumiputeras under the NEP, but many had sold their contracts and approved permits for quick money instead of investing in business.
"We (the government) have tried our best, but we found that the culture (among Malays) to make a quick profit had contributed to their own failure. The ones who succeeded were the non-bumiputeras," Dr Mahathir said.
Malaysia introduced the NEP in 1971 after deadly race riots in 1969 that were fuelled by anger over the economic gap between Malays - the predominant group among the bumiputeras - and the Chinese. The NEP, geared towards socioeconomic restructuring and eliminating poverty, gives bumiputeras preferential access to affordable houses, scholarships, government loans and contracts as well as shares of listed companies.
Dr Mahathir said he had visited many construction sites and noticed that not many bumiputeras worked there as engineers or labourers. "The question remains: You can't or you won't? Opportunities are plenty, but at the end of the day, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."