Monday, March 29, 2010


KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Perkasa’s racial vitriol at its weekend congress has frightened non-Malay businessmen and may have just reversed any gains from tomorrow's announcement of the New Economic Model (NEM).

Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali claimed that Bumiputeras should rightly own 67 per cent of the nation’s economic wealth, as it was the majority group in Malaysia while the right-wing organisation's economic bureau director Dr Zubir Harun said it feared the NEM would have a Chinese agenda

Their statements have made it more challenging for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to push through his 1 Malaysia and NEM reforms and also have exposed the perception among some Malay businessmen that non-Malay businesses get more help from the government. Businessmen contacted by The Malaysian Insider say that they were worried over Perkasa’s “radical” appearance and it has affected their sentiment on the future of business in the country.
“Anything racial and businessmen will look at it negatively,” said one non-Malay businessman who is involved in the agriculture sector and declined to be named for fear of repercussions.

“I don’t think it is relevant: the racial tinge. It is not making us competitive. We should be looking at our collective strengths as Malaysians and work in the same direction and they should look at working in the same direction and not shout and intimidate. It makes business people cautious.”

While most Umno leaders, with the notable exception of former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his son Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, and many GLC bosses gave Perkasa’s congress a miss, perception has persisted among some that the two are linked.

“Some people accuse Perkasa of being Umno’s mouthpiece,” said the businessman. When asked about 1 Malaysia and the NEM to be announced tomorrow, he replied: “It is nice to hear but I have not seen it put to work yet. I have just got to wait and see.”

Another non-Malay businessman in the construction industry who has made significant inroads abroad told The Malaysian Insider that Perkasa has definitely affected business sentiment. “What they have said is very sensitive and Malaysia has lost out on a lot of foreign investment and this will make it worse,” he said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “They should just wait for the NEM and see how best to move Malaysia forward. Otherwise, we are going backwards not forward. The contributions of non-Malays should be valued.” Malay businessman Burhanuddin Md Radzi told The Malaysian Insider however that Perkasa was mostly “hype” and is simply trying to spur the Malays to work together.

“The young Malays are now rich and they forget about helping other Malays,” said Burhanuddin, who was formerly in the oil and gas industry and now owns a number of other businesses including animation studio Les’ Copaque Production Sdn Bhd. “I invest in other Malay companies and tell them that they cannot do businesses based on help from the government.”

He added that he agreed with Perkasa that non-Malays got a lot of assistance from the government and cited the number of grants given to non-Malays from the government’s e-Content fund for creative content.

“Look at the e-Content fund, all taken by the Chinese, the co-production fund all taken by Chinese, RM5 million, RM10 million,” he said. “Look at those small and medium enterprises who know how to get aid, it is the Chinese.

“Maybe on the podium, Perkasa was a bit overexcited but it is the same when you hear other non-Malay organisations,” he added.

Perkasa and the Malay Consultative Council (MPM), which comprises Malay groups, are pressing the government to ensure the NEM contains elements of the New Economic Policy (NEP) that seeks to increase Bumiputera share equity to 30 per cent of the national economy and alleviate poverty.

Over the years, the NEP has only focused on Bumiputera equity but DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said today only RM2 billion in Bumiputera share equity is left in their hands instead of the RM54 billion doled out since the affirmative action policy started in 1970. The NEP officially ended in 1990 and was replaced by the 10-year National Development Policy (NDP).

Najib will announce the NEM in two stages by receiving draft proposals called the Economic Transformation Plan (ETP) from the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) tomorrow at the Invest Malaysia forum and the full details when tabling the 10th Malaysia Plan in June after getting public feedback.

The NEM contains timelines to ensure a high-income, inclusive and sustainable economy. The ETP comes after Najib launched the Government Transformation Plan (GTP) last January that has six National key Result Areas (NKRAs).

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