KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is determined to accelerate a needs-based economic policy, which will reduce inequality and improve the lot of the poor.
In re-affirming his commitment on the matter, he said that he would continue with the changes that were set in motion by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in regards to the realignment of the New Economic Policy (NEP).
"What I need to do is to accelerate the process (of implementing a needs-based economic policy). But I’m equally, if not more committed in terms of reducing inequality and elevating the poor and also to check on unbridled capitalism," he said after a parliamentary symposium on the Malaysian economy here on Friday.
He said it was important to implement needs-based affirmative action to help the poor and sidelined.
In this regard, the Port Dickson member of parliament said that a holistic approach to helping the poor was best.
"After 60 years of independence, Malaysians should be seen as one community with equal rights and privileges.
"The poor Malay, Chinese, or Indian are 'poor people',” he said.
Anwar said the government wanted to move away from race-based economic policies, and this could be done if there were improvements to certain aspects of the NEP.
“To contribute to a race-based (policy) after 60 years and we still want to keep a policy that differentiate races, that is not suitable for me any more," he said.
Anwar, who was introduced as the next prime minister at the event, acknowledged that the majority of the poor in Malaysia were Malays.
He said that he was not questioning the Malay special privileges enshrined in the Federal Constitution, nor was he questioning quotas which helped uplift the plight of the poor Malays.
Anwar said the push towards a needs-based economic policy was a separate issue with meritocracy because the latter issue depended on realities on the ground.
He said that meritocracy sounded good on paper, but is was not always feasible.
"You cannot compare the best school in Kuala Lumpur, with the best school in Kapit, Sarawak" he said.
He also cited an example of big conglomerates, and urged them to abolish any policy of hiring people based on race. Anwar said that these conglomerates should be hiring more workers from among the poor.
“You can’t say you want to do away with race-based policies and not recruit poor rural Malays, who can’t speak good English. If they fall short, give them training. That’s how they can help.”
Earlier in his speech, Anwar said that government allocations for poverty eradication, senior citizens and care for the unfortunate needed to be maintained.
He said the government must also make sure that these policies and policies created the desired results.
“We cannot fix rising inequality which affects all races if we systematically ignore some groups at the expense of others.
“We must also avoid the pitfalls of many developing countries where programs for the poor are rich in number and allocations, but poor in results. The money is either siphoned off by rent seekers or absorbed by the bloated implementing machinery.”
He said the economic recovery plan which was implemented by the Pakatan Harapan government would not come easily since the Malaysian economy was linked with global markets.
“However – a clear policy framework, cohesive strategy and tenacity to do whatever it takes to get the economy revved up again is what is required.We need to take a few steps back and do some serious soul searching.”
On a separate issue, Anwar defended the appointment of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) vice-chairman Wong Kah Woh as chairman of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) of Malaysia.
He said that Wong’s appointment did not go against PH’s policy because Seda was a statutory body and not a business entity.