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Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will be held to their public undertaking to make public the EPU methodology and data for computing ethnic breakdowns of New Economic Policy equity ownership when Parliament meets on Monday
(Tawau, Friday) : The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak will be held to their public undertaking to make public the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) methodology and data for computing ethnic breakdowns of New Economic Policy (NEP) equity ownership when Parliament meets on Monday.
This will be one of the major issues I will highlight on Monday during the debate on the Prime Minister’s Department’s allocations under the 2007 budget, for which two days have been set aside.
When he returned from Mecca two weeks ago (Oct. 16), Abdullah said that Malaysians have the right to question the government or to seek answers on issues when referring to calls for the public disclosure for the EPU methodology and data.
Abdullah said: “If people question, then we must have answers. We do not have a problem. If we are transparent, what is the problem?”
A day earlier, Najib said that the government’s methodology to calculate bumiputera equity ownership was no secret and could be disclosed.
The thunderous silence and failure in the past two weeks to make public the EPU methodology and data seem to indicate that the government is having very serious problem in “walking the talk” about transparency.
Abdullah and Najib must realize that both of them would lose all credibility if they fail to honour their public undertaking to make public the EPU methodology and data, especially after the Malaysiakini exclusive report of a 2002 University of Malaya research study and finding that the 30 per cent bumiputera equity ownership as targeted under the NEP had been achieved a decade ago in 1997.
The research, entitled “Bumiputeras in the Corporate Sector – Three decades of performance 1970-2000”, by Dr. M. Fazilah Abdul Samad, head of department of finance and banking in the Faculty of Business and Accountancy, was based on a 10-year analysis of bumiputera equity ownership between 1988 and 1997 of public listed companies on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE), now called Bursa Malaysia.
Fazilah’s study is the first publication of the inaugural Research Reports Series of the Centre for Economic Development and Ethnic Relations (CEDER), University of Malaya, involving a team of researchers from the Faculty of Economics and Administration and Faculty of Business and Accountancy in a research project started in early 2000 to study the implications of the New Economic Policy on the Bumiputera community.
As Professor Dr. Jahara Yahaya, Director of CEDEC, wrote in his preface to Fazilah’s study, the coverage of topics intended for the CEDEC research studies was extensive – to embrace areas such as the emerging problems of the Bumiputera middle-class in the post New Economic Policy period, Bumiputera entrepreneurs a decade after NEP.as well as Bumiputeras in the corporate sector. Other issues intended for the study are the proliferation of private higher educational institutions, Malay poverty and the dilution of Malay land ownership.
According to Fazilah’s study, bumiputera equity ownership reached 33.7 per cent in 1997, comprising 30.6 per cent bumiputera corporate equity ownership and 3.1 per cent individual bumiputera share ownership.
This is however an underestimate, as it did not include nominee company ownership which many economists have argued would be held in the majority on behalf of bumiputeras.
Furthermore, it does not take into account government-held ownership (9.5 per cent), as was done in the study by the controversial Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli)’s Centre for Public Policy Studies, and both the CEDER and ASLI studies have arrived at very similar conclusion of 45% bumiputera equity ownership achievement if 70% of government-held ownership are attributed to bumiputeras.
Parliament must demonstrate on Monday that Members of Parliament regardless of political party or race can set the national example of debating in a rational and responsible manner the important issue of the proper methodology and data to be used in the computation of the ethnic breakdown of NEP equity ownership without anyone playing the race card to become a communal hero at the expense of national unity and the 15-year National Mission proclaimed by the Prime Minister during the launching of the Ninth Malaysia Plan on 31st March this year.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman