• At this point it is well to define in greater detail the objective of establishing an economically just society.
  • Of the two prongs of the NEP no one is against the eradication of absolute poverty -regardless of race, and irrespective of geographical location. All Malaysians, whether they live in the rural or the urban areas, whether they are in the south, north, east or west, must be moved above the line of absolute poverty.
  • This nation must be able to provide enough food on the table so that not a solitary Malaysian is subjected to the travesty of gross under-nourishment. We must provide enough by way of essential shelter, access to health facilities, and all the basic essentials. A developed Malaysia must have a wide and vigorous middle class and must provide full opportunities for those in the bottom third to climb their way out of the pit of relative poverty.
  • The second prong, that of removing the identification of race with major economic function is also acceptable except that somehow it is thought possible to achieve this without any shuffling of position. If we want to build an equitable society than we must accept some affirmative action. This will mean that in all the major and important sectors of employment, there should be a good mix of the ethnic groups that make up the Malaysian nation. By legitimate means we must ensure a fair balance with regard to the professions and all the major categories of employment. Certainly we must be as interested in quality and merit. But we must ensure the healthy development of a viable and robust Bumiputera commercial and industrial community.
  • A developed Malaysia should not have a society in which economic backwardness is identified with race. This does not imply individual income equality, a situation in which all Malaysians will have the same income. This is an impossibility because by sheer dint of our own individual effort, our own individual upbringing and our individual preferences, we will all have different economic worth, and will be financially rewarded differently. An equality of individual income as propounded by socialists and communists is not only not possible, it is not desirable and is a formula for disaster.
  • But I do believe that the narrowing of the ethnic income gap, through the legitimate provision of opportunities, through a closer parity of social services and infrastructure, through the development of the appropriate economic cultures and through full human resource development, is both necessary and desirable. We must aspire by the year 2020 to reach a stage where no-one can say that a particular ethnic group is inherently economically backward and another is economically inherently advanced. Such a situation is what we must work for efficiently, effectively, with fairness and with dedication.

 

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