KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday that the government intends to accelerate a needs-based economic policy set by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Datuk Seri Anwar, who was introduced as the next prime minister at a symposium in Parliament, reiterated previous statements that the "obsolete" race-based New Economic Policy (NEP) must be dismantled.
But he added that the move must be done with a firm commitment to needs-based affirmative action to help the poor and those who have been sidelined, without taking into account their ethnic background.
The NEP sets aside quotas in universities, government jobs and housing for the majority Malays and other bumiputera races to quickly reduce their poverty rate.
Mr Anwar emphasised that the majority of those living in poverty are Malays.
"The Prime Minister made it very clear that the NEP must be seen as different from the special Malay privileges enshrined in the Constitution," Mr Anwar was quoted as saying.
He added: "I'm not here to question what has been enshrined in the Constitution, including privileges and quota." The Port Dickson MP said a holistic approach to helping the poor was needed.
"After 60 years of independence, Malaysians should be seen as one community with equal rights and privileges," he said at a press conference after the Malaysian Economic Symposium at the Parliament building. "The poor Malay, poor Chinese, or poor Indian are 'poor people'," he said.
Mr Anwar added that meritocracy sounded good and rational on paper, but was not feasible in practice.
"You cannot compare the best school in Kuala Lumpur with the best school in Kapit, Sarawak," he said.
He said the Pakatan Harapan government under Tun Dr Mahathir has set the direction for a needs-based economic policy and he will continue the process.
"What I need to do is to accelerate the process but I'm equally, if not more, committed in terms of reducing inequality and elevating the poor and checking unbridled capitalism," he said.
Mr Anwar said the government must ensure that the policies it created have the desired results. "We must avoid the pitfalls of many developing countries where programmes for the poor are rich in number and allocations, but poor in results. The money is either siphoned off by rent seekers or absorbed by the bloated implementing machinery."
On politicians sitting on the board of government-linked companies, Mr Anwar said it may be practised at the state level but the federal policy was clear that this should no longer happen.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK