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Malaysia’s Najib Outlines New Affirmative Action Steps to Nation

Malaysia will set up a trust to expand education, home ownership and other affirmative action measures for ethnic Malays and indigenous people as part of the state’s policies to further boost their share of the economic pie, Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

“What we are doing is equitable and it does not take away the rights of any other individual or their interests,” Najib said today in a televised address. “The New Economic Policy for bumiputeras has proven to reduce the gap among races, including socio-economic development of bumiputeras, for four decades.”

Malaysia’s Permodalan Nasional Berhad will set up a 10 billion ringgit ($3 billion) unit trust to support skills training, education and home ownership among Malays and indigenous people, Najib said. It will additionally provide 700 million ringgit to support young Malay entrepreneurs, he said.

Government-linked companies will be urged to give more contracts and concessions to ethnic Malays on a merit basis, the prime minister said. The government will also identify state-owned companies that can be sold to Malays and indigenous people, he said.

“We want to build a new community,” Najib said. “A bumiputera entrepreneur who can compete and who is knowledgeable in all skills.”

Najib, 60, was a teenager when riots erupted between Muslim Malays and ethnic Chinese in Kuala Lumpur in 1969. His father Abdul Razak Hussein became prime minister the following year and responded with a program to reduce Chinese dominance in business by giving preferential treatment to Malays and indigenous people, collectively known as Bumiputeras.

New Economic Policy

The measures, crystalized under a New Economic Policy in 1971, have provided Bumiputeras with cheaper housing as well as priority for university places, government contracts and shares of publicly traded companies.

While this group makes up about 60 percent of Malaysia’s 29 million population, they held 23 percent of equity ownership based on par value in 2011, Bernama reported Sept. 10, citing Abdul Wahid Omar, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department responsible for overseeing Bumiputera policy. The government wants to increase this to 30 percent by 2020 when the country seeks to achieve developed nation status, he said.

Najib rolled back some preferences for Bumiputeras to encourage investment after becoming prime minister in 2009, including doing away with a requirement that foreign companies investing in Malaysia and locally listed businesses set aside 30 percent of their equity for this group. He has also sought to make assistance more merit-based and made periodic cash handouts to the poor of all races.

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