PUTRAJAYA, March 2 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today he approved RM1 billion to fund projects aimed at creating a Bumiputera entrepreneurial class as one of several major spending announcements to fulfil and complement recommendations made at the seventh Bumiputera Economic Congress here.

The announcement comes just hours after Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli told the congress the government would expedite the drive to mobilise private Bumiputera capital that would be used to invest in potential start-ups run by members of the community.

“The biggest weakness of the Bumiputera is the new generation of entrepreneurs, based on the advice I heard the last two days that we must acknowledge,” Anwar said in his closing speech of the congress.

“Thus, I shall delegate through GLCs and GLICs the setting up of a big fund specifically for the realisation and development of a Bumiputera entrepreneur generation. RM1 billion is approved.”


Earlier today, Rafizi suggested that the Anwar government could shift its focus towards increasing the number of Bumiputera-owned businesses as an indicator of Bumiputera economic success.

The move could signal a pivot from the previous goal of raising Bumiputera equity as the core objective of a decades-long race-based economic framework that critics argue is dated.

Still, many Umno leaders who are now Rafizi’s colleagues in Anwar’s national unity government remain adamant that ownership of companies is still the best way to alleviate the Bumiputera’s socio-economic status.


New approaches

The prime minister did not explicitly indicate if he would do away with the 30 per cent equity target but appeared to have criticised the policy again.

Addressing political leaders and executives of state companies at the congress, he said billions of ringgit have been spent to raise Bumiputera stakes in large companies and key industries, but the move appeared to have benefitted a small number of politically-connected elites.

The reprimand was a call to tighten governance and management in government-linked enterprises, which in the past have been complicit in propping up incapable but well-connected companies.

“We cannot preach integrity, transparency and responsibility to others when we see our own (Bumiputera) agencies in a state of chaos, that keeps coming back to the Ministry of Finance for bailouts because they have lost billions of ringgit due to poor and treacherous management,” he said.

Anwar was critical of the equity ownership approach during his days in the opposition. He claimed abuse of the policy was rampant and helped nurture rent-seeking and cronyism.

“I am telling everyone here, this treachery must end now,” the prime minister stressed.

Anwar announced a total of RM2.1 billion in new spending to fulfil some of the requests made at the three-day congress.

He signed off a billion ringgit in micro credit to help Bumiputera micro and small businesses, which he said would prioritise women, youths and armed forces veterans venturing into business.

The fund would be disbursed through Bumiputera institutions such as Bank Simpanan Nasional, Agroban and Tekun.