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KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — “Haywire” implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) was the cause of the rampant cronyism and rent-seeking now ailing Malaysia, said veteran lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The former finance minister said the practice of patronage in implementing the policy had undermined the “just and noble” philosophy that underpinned the social engineering programme that was mooted in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 racial riots.
“The entrenchment of rent-seeking and patronage system into the fabric of Malaysian life begs the question: How did this come to pass?” he said in his keynote address at the launch of the book “Rich Malaysia, Poor Malaysians” last night.
“Much as this sounds like a blame game and much as this is distasteful to swallow, the answer lies in the New Economic Policy; or rather, the NEP that had gone wrong in its implementation,” he added.
Tengku Razaleigh, or Ku Li as he is popularly known, said the country has fallen victim to the machinations of politicians habitually lining their own pockets and colluding with businessmen who were uncompetitive without preferential treatment.
He said such political connections have been a major obstacle to promoting healthy and fair, open competition in business, paving the way for profits to be made through outright corruption, poor regulation and the transfer of public assets through privatisation exercises at bargain prices.
He was especially critical of the Barisan Nasional federal government for treating national oil firm Petronas as its personal “piggy bank”, drawing some RM529 billion in dividends, taxes, petroleum proceeds and export duties over more than three decades.
He cited cases such as the RM2.5 billion bailout of Bank Bumiputera in 1985 plus an additional RM1 billion aid payout to the bank six years later, and also the RM2 billion rescue of Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad in 1997.
“The national oil company was also made to underwrite the construction of the Twin Towers in the heart of the KL golden triangle for RM6 billion and the building of the extravagant Putrajaya for RM22 billion.
“In all, more than a half trillion ringgit has been spent. This amount could have been used more productively to fund a national pension programme for Malaysians as has been done by a certain Scandinavian country,” he said, in an apparent reference to Sweden, which is renowned for its extensive public welfare programme.
While acknowledging that the problem lies with corrupt politicians and their business associates working hand-in-glove to perpetuate their power and wealth, Tengku Razaleigh stressed that the solution must come from the public.
The outspoken Gua Musang MP added that this change must also be supported by a revamped education system that puts a premium on logical and critical thinking over rote memorisation just to make the grade.
“I say pressure must be brought to bear and it must be made known that we will not tolerate any more politics that is less than ethical.
“We must clearly and loudly make it known that politics must be practised with a high level of integrity. No, politics is not dirty but its practitioners, more often than not, are,” he said.