Malaysian Democracy - Why Do the Bumis Get Everything?
A posting in my friend's blog caught my attention. Basically, he touched on the inequalities we face in Malaysia as non-bumis (how bumis get preferential treatment and benefits when it comes to, well, basically everything!). He also made a good point when he said that such racial segregation is unwarranted in a democratic society such as ours.
I am sure that the above points are not new to us as Malaysians. Honestly speaking, who amongst us has not gazed at the fine print which states "Bumis are entitled to a 7% discount" and not felt a bit cheesed-off?
How can this be practice be called democratic by any means?
Democracy 101 and the World We Live In
First of all, we all have to be clear on one thing, democracy by itself is not, and should not be the end goal. Democracy is simply a means to an end. So just what excatly is this 'end goal' I am referring to?
The same end goals every country wants...
Stability, Growth & Prosperity
These are the cornerstones of democracy, the whole reason why democracy exists in the first place!
Other forms of governing have existed throughout history (dictatorships, communism, feudalism etc) but none have brought about benefits in the above mentioned 3 points the same way democracy has.
The Many Faces of Democracy
Having said that, it brings me to my second point....
'There isn't only one form of democracy'.
The democracy which we are all familiar with is the 'western' form of democracy, however history has taught us that there are no cookie-cutter approaches when dealing with a particular country.
True, democracy in its most basic element - human rights, voting rights, constitutional rights - is desirable. BUT, the way in which these pillars of democracy are implemented will vary widely from country to country. This is one thing that the American's have yet to learn.
China's Hu Jintao once famously said "Western style democracy is a dead end road".
Although his statement might be a bit overly-dramatic and apocalyptic, I do agree with him on one thing. Western style democracy is not for everyone.
What if we didnt have NDP?
Finally, my third and last point. On the surface, our country's NDP (National Development Policy) might seem outrageously unfair and archaic in nature, BUT we have to look beyond that.
Why was NDP implemented in the first place? First of all, it was introduced in order to quell racial tensions and to bring about stability in our country in the aftermath of the racial riots of May 13 1969. When a country faces internal upheavels, foreign investors flee in droves, and this would affect ALL of us, irregardless of our skin colour.
So what's the big deal if a few investors withdraw their funds from our country? It is a VERY big deal in fact.
Picture this, Malaysia is socially unstable. Foreign investors begin pulling their money out. With the increased outflow of money, our currency depreciates and inflation begins to creep to ever higher levels. Due to the higher risks posed by instability, banks (both local and foreign) begin to demand for higher interest rates in order to compensate them for the extra risks they are taking on. This increase in interest rates affects all businesses, big and small; causing them to significantly cut back on their expenditure. This sudden cut-back affects the suppliers who supply goods and services to these businesses, and in turn affects the suppliers of these suppliers and so on. Businesses begin to go bankrupt, people begin losing their jobs and livelihood. The unemployment rate begins to go up, severely affecting the stability of the country. This causes MORE investors to pull-out from our country and the whole cycle.... You get the picture.
It is precisely BECAUSE of our country's social and political stability (which, like it or not, came about due to the NDP) that we've experienced 2 decades of exponential growth (in the 80's and 90's) and emerged to be one of the most developed nations in South East Asia.
Malaysia indeed Boleh!
So, are the cons brought about by the NDP worth it in the long run? Looking at our current situation (GDP growth of 7.1% in 2004), I would say yes. True, we are not yet a developed nation, neither are we extremely well off (per capita income is only around USD4,000+). BUT with continued stability, sound policies and a good and able government, I truly do believe that we will get there one day.
And that my friend, is worth striving and sacrificing for.