The following is part of the letter Dr Collin Abraham wrote to Malaysiakini, published today – my comments in italics and light blue highlights (like in this paragraph):
Without stretching the argument, one also needs to seek an explanation as to why, while there is an affirmative action policy (NEP) to help the Malays, the vast majority of those afflicted by social ills such as drug abuse, HIV/Aids (almost 80%) and even the highest incidence of incest should be among this community.
Personally I don’t see a connection between the incest and NEP. As for the other ills, I reckon those affected would in all probability be those marginalised Malays, while, as we all know, those who have benefited most from the NEP belong to an elite group.
The MP for Johor Baru Shahrir Samad has assessed the overall situation correctly in saying that: “They (government agencies, the EPU and the Statistics Department) should have sorted themselves out a long time ago instead of getting into a public debate and getting everybody upset’”. He added that statistics must be credible as they were used to form government policies. I believe that herein lies the root of this problem with which we are now confronted with and that is the departments concerned being unable to ‘sort themselves out’."
To anyone having a serious discourse with the EPU or attempting to obtain data from the Statistics Department today, it becomes quickly clear that these agencies are no longer what they used to be when Tun Abdul Razak was minister for rural development and prime minister. Indeed, in a UN follow-up research project on Felda I was amazed to be told that the EPU now mainly ‘coordinates’ government projects. Likewise it is also clear that the Statistics Department has been much ‘watered down” since Tun Razak’s time. The reason is not too difficult to find.
Part of the NEP’s dilution effect over the years – it’s not only the public service but universities and armed services as well. As one friend mentioned, those surviving under the NEP would have the utmost difficulty surviving in a global environment.
These departments or units do not necessarily offer the best promotion prospects to senior civil servants who themselves are not necessarily economists or statisticians and therefore the turnover rate among these officers is likely to be high. In fact, this lackadaisical attitude can even be traced to the universities where, according to Professor Khoo Kay Kim, Universiti Malaya does not even have a professor of economics.
I am confident that this comment of the MP for Johor Baru really sums up what seems to be at issue. “Everybody was upset with the leakages, Malay or non-Malay. We cannot go through another period of seeing these opportunities wasted again. If we miss the point and talk about whose statistics are correct, we may miss the whole thing”.
While that may be true, the statistics is still important because it calls for a reality check, especially in today’s globalised economy, and demands a new strategy based mostly (though not completely) on meritocracy – those needy (not greedy) can still be assisted.