Date of publication: Dec 7, 2013
Section heading: Main Section
Page number: 012
Byline / Author: By Shahrum Sayuthi; Ahmad Fairuz Othman; Azura Abas; Nik Imran Abdullah; Roy Goh; Adie Suri Zulkefli; Audrey Dermawan; Zarina Zakariah; Zulita Mustafa; Syed Umar Ariff; Alang Bendahara; Satiman Jamin; Adib Povera; Rizalman Hammim; Sharifah Mahsinah Abdullah; Rozanna Latiff; Hariz Mohd; Hana Naz Harun; Emilia Gazali; Carisma Kapoor; Rahmat Khairulrijal; Balqis Lim
KUALA LUMPUR: Even as delegates discussed issues ranging from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to the role of government-linked companies (GLCs), they all shared one common theme: the government should be more assertive in carrying out its people-centric agenda.
Given that Umno is the main political party making up the Barisan Nasional government, delegates debating the economic motion at the Umno general assembly yesterday touched on key issues affecting not just the Malays but the whole nation.
Titiwangsa Umno deputy chief Affendi Zakaria was one of the liveliest speakers during yesterday's debate.
He began by discussing the TPPA, urging International Trade and Industry minister Datuk Seri Mustapha Mohamed to weigh its pros and cons before deciding on the agreement.
Affendi also urged the government to be more forthcoming with information on economic policies and matters affecting the rakyat.
He compared the handling of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) issue with that of the recent 200 per cent assessment rate hike for properties in the Federal Territory.
"People won't be angry if the policies were clearly explained and done gradually, like the GSTannouncement, which was done 14 months before its implementation.
"Recently, we in the Federal Territory almost lost our minds when it was announced that the assessment rate will go up by 200 per cent. We were shocked.
"If it has to be increased, please do so gradually so that the people won't be burdened."
Kuala Kangsar Umno division chief Datuk Wan Khair-il Anuar Wan Ahmad said Umno should not compromise on economic issues involving the Malays.
He warned that if the Malays lose out in the economy, they would ultimately lose their rights in politics.
GLCs, he said, needed to encourage greater participation of Malay entrepreneurs, and GLCs should not sideline the community or snatch away business opportunities.
He also questioned the support of a group of Malay businessmen.
"Thanks to the GLCs, they reaped numerous benefits and managed to elevate their status. But were they with us during the 13th General Election?"
Mahasiswa Nasional representative Mohd Affifi Mohd Aris suggested that a quota system for industrial internship be adopted as part of the GLCs' key performance indicators (KPI).
Enabling undergraduates to gain pre-work exposure could be viewed as an effort by GLCs to assist undergraduates, he said.
Malacca delegate Senator Datuk Akhbar Ali, meanwhile, urged the government to review the Bumiputera equity quota in the economy, from 30 per cent to 67.9 per cent, in order to better reflect the country's demographic breakdown.
He said the proposal to double equity ownership among Bumiputeras was necessary to ensure fair distribution of wealth.
"The 30 per cent benchmark was suitable when the New Economic Policy was drafted in the 1970s, but it is time we revise it to 67.9 per cent to reflect the current Bumiputera population."
He noted that the household income disparity between Bumiputera and Chinese households had widened since 2009 to this year.
"In 2009, for each RM1 earned by a Bumiputera household, the Chinese were earning RM1.38. The gap has since widened to RM1.45."
He supported the government's subsidy rationalisation plan, as it would ensure that subsidies would only benefit target groups.
The Malacca Umno liaison committee secretary also urged the government to act swiftly to address decreasing Bumiputera ownership in business premises, housing and land.