Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dr Kua Articulates One of the Many Thoughts On Lulu's Mind

some of you may not know Dr Kua Kia Soong.
He was the MP of my area in the 90's, and he was deprived of his seat in the 95 elections when the supposedly independant SPR got fussy about minor mistakes in the Borang Pencalonan. He was the educationist turned politicians, and my parents were full of respect for him. During the last elections, I attended a ceramah in support of Sivarasa [PJ Selatan] just to hear Dr Kua speak.

A fuller biodata via his last book is as follows:
The author, Dr Kua Kia Soong is director and founder member of SUARAM (Suara
Rakyat Malaysia), a non-governmental organisation which campaigns for human rights and environmental protection. He is by profession, Principal of the New Era College, a community college set up by Dong Jiao Zong, the Chinese educationist movement.
He was Opposition Member of Parliament for Petaling Jaya from 1990 to 1995; Director of Huazi Research Centre from 1985 to 1990; Higher Education Adviser for the Malaysian Chinese schools from 1983 to 1985.Kua received his BA Econ (1975), MA Econ (1976) and PhD in Sociology (1981) from Manchester University, UK. He taught Sociology at Manchester University and also the National University of Singapore in the Seventies.
During the mass arrests and detentions under the Mahathir regime's "Operation Lalang" in 1987, he spent 445 days under Internal Security Act detention without trial. He was Prisoner of Conscience for the second time in 1996 when he spent six days in prison for organising the Second Asia Pacific Conference on East Timor which was disrupted by a mob from the ruling coalition.

and the article itself?

Statistical charades of the Umnoputras
Dr Kua Kia Soong

Oct 17, 06 3:43pm

The latest controversy over the Asli equity report is but another episode in a charade that began when the New Economic Policy was manufactured after May 13, 1969. Supposedly introduced to eradicate poverty regardless of ethnicity and to correct the ‘racial imbalance’ relating to wealth holding in the country, all the statistics relating to ethnic proportions ever since have been consistently obfuscating.
For a start, it is impossible to verify the government’s statistics relating to share of equity and poverty incidence by ethnicity because the raw data used to calculate these are not made available. In 1986, it evoked this observation from the Far Eastern Economic Review: ‘Suspicions that somehow these figures are doctored to suit political ends are heightened by the fact that all compilation is undertaken by the EPU, which is staffed at the senior level almost exclusively by Malays’.
Until the 80s, the government used to measure wealth on a narrow cash-income basis without taking into account such factors as land ownership, scholarships, services and subsidies. This, therefore, threw up large disparities between the incidence of poverty among Malays, being more rural-based, and the more urban-based Chinese.
Statistics on household income must also take into account the proportion of household members participating in economic activity. If the statistics show that there are more economically active members in the Chinese household, then this will invariably inflate their household incomes in comparison to other communities. It is clear that average income figures will always hide the true picture of poverty within each ethnic community.

The other controversial statistics relate to the proportion of equity capital held by the different ethnic communities. Even during the 80s, it was pointed out that by lumping holdings of bumiputera and government agencies in nominee and locally-controlled companies under ‘Other Malaysian residents’, it was not surprising that the ‘bumiputera’ stake would be understated (17.8 per cent in the mid-80s). It was estimated then that the bumiputera stake under ‘Other Malaysian residents’ accounted for at least another 12 percentage points. Hence, there would have been no further justification to prolong the New Economic Policy beyond 1990.
The solution to the latest controversy over how GLCs should be looked at seems elementary to the economics student. I am surprised the government does not have the simple vision of getting the EPU technocrats to come clean instead of issuing threats to academics. Would I be a genius if I said that Petronas, to name but one example, is certainly not a non-bumiputera corporate entity? Is there any wonder our ranking in the universities league is dropping?
This whole notion of equity share by race is nonsensical when bumiputeras can sell their shares for cash as soon as they have been allocated and restore the status quo ante ad nauseum! Future writers of Malaysian fairy tales will deride the New Economic Policy very much like we lampoon the emperor’s new clothes.
Without such a racially discriminatory policy, the Umnoputras would not only lose their unfair privilege, they would also lose their ‘Malay-centric’ ideology to win Malay votes and enjoy the fruits of political power! Therefore, the NEP had to be prolonged under a different guise – the ‘National Development Policy’.
But while earlier Malaysia Plans used to provide statistics with ethnic breakdown (how else can we correct the ‘racial imbalance’?), the later Plans did not provide these. The authorities justified this practice by saying that they were ‘... likely to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between the different communities’ (Standing Orders 23(2) of the Malaysian Parliament).
When I was in Parliament, my questions relating to proportion of scholarships and loans that were given to the bumiputera poor; the numbers and proportion of Malay, Chinese and Indian waged labour and their respective earnings and others were similarly disqualified under Standing Orders 23(2).
The need for a Freedom of Information Act has never been more urgent after this latest controversy. Any policy based on “race” is seriously flawed and questionable since every ethnic community has its rich elite and its poorer majority. Every scholar worth his or her salt knew then in the 70s what the outcome of the NEP would be – the ‘corrective’ measures have mainly benefitted the well-placed Umnoputras.
The separation of control of funds by NEP ‘trustees’ from nominal ownership by bumiputeras led to the flouting of public accountability. Without effective checks and balance, we witnessed the scandals of yesteryears – Bank Rakyat, BMF and others. More insidious is the effect this widespread racial discrimination has had on ethnic relations in this country. Unity can only be promoted through an affirmative action policy based on need, never on race.
The writer is director of human rights organisation, Suaram

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