Boosting wealth generation of Bumiputeras : A Jalil Hamid
ECONOMIST Dr Muhammed Abdul Khalid argued in his book, The Colour of Inequality: Ethnicity, Class, Income and Wealth in Malaysia, that age cohorts, educational level and occupation helped contribute to the wealth disparity between Malays and Chinese.
Data that he produced showed that Bumiputeras had the least wealth compared with other ethnic groups. For example, in 2009, the average Chinese household had 1.38 times and 1.25 times as much income as Bumiputeras and Indians, respectively, but in terms of wealth, the gap widens: 1.9 times and 1.5 times, respectively.
How can we close the gap?
Muhammed says the government, among others, must address the institutional disadvantage that limits the ability of Bumiputeras to advance in the private labour market and, thus, in wealth generation and accumulation.
As Umno leaders and members converge on the Putra World Trade Centre for their annual party caucus, the discussions on the Bumiputera Economic Agenda are receiving greater attention than before.
Given the urgency (Vision 2020 is just six years away), no Umno leader wants to see Malays remain marginalised when the country becomes a developed nation by 2020.
As Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak has put it boldly, the Bumi agenda is a national agenda.
In other words, the problem of the majority is a national problem, not an ethnic problem. Failure to address the wealth gap through affirmative action and other means is a recipe for disaster.
We should expect a series of Umno resolutions at this session to take the Bumi agenda forward.
First and foremost, there should be a clear and comprehensive plan to help develop, nurture, expand or improve the Bumi standing in all economic and business sectors.
Malays are lagging very much in the supply chain sectors. They rely almost entirely on Chinese suppliers for construction materials.
In the recent Second Penang Bridge project, for example, some of the 10 Bumi sub-contractors had struggled to source for materials until the main project owner stepped in.
I have also heard of numerous stories of Malay businessmen being squeezed out from their units in major shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur due to exorbitant rent.
Najib, in his winding-up speech today, might unveil some plans to help Bumi entrepreneurs, boost job and educational opportunities for Bumiputeras, and address ways to maximise economic potential from wakaf and Malay reserve land.
Teraju, the agency coordinating efforts to boost the Bumi economic agenda, should be more proactive and effective in its work, and address the rumblings among some of its critics.
Petronas, Khazanah and other government-linked companies (GLCs) should also double their efforts to assist capable Bumi companies.
Najib, in his opening speech on Thursday, had vowed that Umno was committed to championing the lot of Malays and Bumiputeras.
“This is not mere lip service, but my comrades and I in the party and government have carried out what’s possible to prove it.”
It is time all relevant ministries, agencies and GLCs step in and do their part in a big way.