Thursday, November 01, 2012
Does race matter in Malaysia?
In this era of national slogan for 1Malaysia and DAP-led agenda for Pakatan Rakyat (PR)'s of Malaysian Malaysia, many would like to believe that race should not matter any more.
The neo-liberals inside Barisan Nasional (BN) will try to keep the course in line with 1Malaysia idea of one Bangsa Malaysia although Bangsa means nation too.
The traditionalist are cautiously concern for the diminishing programs for Malays and their respective races but are aware of the need for restrain and patience.
PR will try to be oblivious to race despite the fact that DAP is 99.99% Chinese and PAS is 99.99% Malay. DAP is comfortable with Chinese competitive ability. PAS thinks there is no Malays but only Muslims in Malaysia.
PKR has a Malay front but it is increasingly more Indians and Chinese at the middle leadership. They are trying to convince that we should be a color blind and united nation.
Naturally, both sides will try to appease the Malay majority voters.
BN will say they have done much in uplifting the Malays. PR's Muslim and mixed race political parties would like to negate it with the arguments "it is not good enough" and play on the repeated stories of "corruption, cronyism, and nepotism."
On the Sabah and Sarawak side, it is a little bit more complex. Each state has a potpouri of 30 local ethnic groups without any ethnic group considered dominant.
They inherited British colonial history and system but their political culture and heritage is different from Semenanjung Tanah Melayu and between them.
The non-Malays and non-Bumiputeras have been pushing forward the argument and exerting social and political pressure on the claim that their race is being discriminated.
Jobs in Government does not favour Chinese in particular. Public work is only given to Malay.
In turn, the Malays and Bumiputeras argue that non-Bumiputeras, particularly Chinese dominate and monopolise the more lucrative and larger private sector.
The Malays and Bumiputera can't penetrate non-GLC private sector and claim to be discriminated. They have to rely on government assistance.
Chinese say it is unfair and discriminatory. Private sector must be competitive and "may the best men win."
In reality, who is discriminating who?
Before attempting that more difficult task, one should start from that basic cari makan economic needs of jobs and employment. Is the job and employment market fair and equitable?
It is a basic issue of securing income and making a living.
But then, how do one describe as fair? And how do one describe as equitable?
Two academicians, Dr Lee Hwok Aun of University of Malaya and Dr Muhammed A Khalid undertook a study involving 800 companies to delve into the question of whether race matter in getting jobs.
They are delivering the finding of their study tomorrow at the Seminar "Does Race Matter in Getting an Interview?" A field experiment of hiring discrimination in peninsula Malaysia."
The study findings should contribute towards discussion on past New Economics Policy and the way forward.
Then and now, it is generally agreed that poverty eradication should remain race free. However social imbalances remain. One is the urban-rural gap.
Another hotly debated is the race-based social imbalances. But then, addressing it on a race basis will be seen as old school, non-competitive and not market friendly. But it can't be left to go on and explode into a security problem.
There is East-West coast Semenanjung social imbalance that inextricably link to Malay population. And there is also Semenanjung vis-a-vis Sabah and Sarawak social imbalance.
Probably there are other social imbalances to look into in society.
It is important social imbalances to be corrected because it leads to dissatisfaction of one social group towards another. Social imbalances in society leads to turmoil and impairs nation building.
It is not merely economics but about economic justice. It is part and parcel of achieving progress. On that score, free market is not known for addressing non-economic issues.
To the detriment of neo-liberalist thinking of the day that despise any form of government meddling in economic distribution, political will may still be required on government to "interfere" using effective socio-economic program.
Will the finding shed a new light to this age old issue that is as old as the nation? Can this finding lead us to a new perspective in looking at social imbalances? Is there other social grouping that can better address this issue of social imbalances?
Before exploring other areas needed for a fairer distribution of economic cake, can we first ensure the young talents and also population at large gets a fair share of jobs and employment at the start of their economic life which is free from discrimination in any form.
Isn't fair and equitable also the criteria for market mechanism theoretically claim to achieve?
If interested, be there at the 3rd Floor, Postgraduate Conference Room, Postgraduate Studies Building, Faculty of Economics, University of Malaya tomorrow Friday November 2nd at 10:00 AM.
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