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Response: Question Of Economic Justice

I wish to respond to the issues raised by Tome Cruise in my blog relating to PAS’s stand on certain economic policies by the Kedah state government in particular and economic justice in general. Before I jump in headlong into the issues, I wish to recall a discourse given by Almarhum Ustaz Fadhil, our late President of an incident in the time of Umar Al-Khattab, the second Caliph. During Umar’s time, the Muslims liberated Syria from Roman rule. The Syrian populace who were left behind by the retreating Roman armies were mainly peasants, working the lands for their Roman landlords. When the Romans and their collaborators were displaced, the Muslims moved in.

The Muslims, being economically better off, wished to take over the estates, farms and the such and fill in the vacuum left by the Romans, economically and politically. Umar opposed this and was very persistent in ensuring that the local population who although were not yet Muslims at that time, be protected economically. He allowed certain transfers but ensured the locals would in the end maintain ownership over much of their lands.

The above was probably one of the earliest examples of affirmative action and ‘government intervention’ in ensuring economic distributive justice. It could not be left to the ‘market forces’ alone. I believe economic distributive justice is part and parcel of Pakatan Rakyat’s vision of a just society. Government intervention in an otherwise laissez faire economy is an accepted practice since Keynesian times. An altogether laissez faire economy would create economic injustices which would have a negative impact on social stability.

Similarly, affirmative action policies are an accepted norm in modern day societies, be it in the west or in the east and the main objective is again to right an imbalance which would otherwise lead to social instability. Issues of unequal distribution between various sectors, economic, social, racial and the such are always studied, and specific policies devised to target these unequalities. These economic inequalities cannot be simply explained away as being caused by laziness etc. but various factors including those relating to social, economic sector involvement, cultural and political conditions have to be taken into consideration.

Any political leadership which closes its eyes to the social realities is asking for trouble. Putting an objective which attempts to ensure distributive justice but at the same time ensuring minimal negative impact on economic development of the state and nation should be the objective. To this end, a national agenda agreed to by all parties needs to be had. Its implementation should then be transparent to ensure that the objectives are not hijacked as was the case in the DEB.

At the same time, I think we have to move away also from a ‘racial mentality’. Policies aimed at protecting a the rights of a race is not necessarilly ‘racist’. When the Chinese wish to have their Chinese Language schools, it does not make the Chineses racists or chauvanists. It is their right. Similarly, when the Malays wish to have a fairer share of the economic cake, it is not racist. Any responsible government must consider ways of ensuring that no race, be it Malay, Chinese or Indian, be left behind. Similar is the case when studying the issue from the perspective of economic sectors. Some sectors would be left behind and would need assistance in order to rectify the situation. However, these ‘social engineering’ policies should not have an adverse negative effect on the economy. Slight deformation is inevitable, for everything has a cost, including economic distributive justice.

Our problem is that we tend to see every reference to race as being ‘racist’ or race politics. This is understandable in the face of the race politics of our past 50 years. Nonetheless, race is a reality and the imbalances between races an issue which has to be handled. It is to be handled in the context of social and economic justice and not on the basis of racial chauvanism. On this basis there should also be policies to help the Indian communities from the estates. Would this also be seen as racist?

The Kedah Government has explained that their decision is based on two considerations, the first being the racial make-up of the state where 75% are Malays and the second being that the lands are originally Malay reserve land. Conversion of these lands to be developed is done with a condition that 50% is mantained under Malay ownership. This means a conversion is done from a status of 100% Malay ownership as is the case of Malay reserve land, to a 50% Malay ownership. Lastly, the Kedah MB also stated that the policy can be changed if it is found to have an adverse negative effect on the state economy. Whether this makes it Communism or worse than Communism, I think everyone should evaluate and consider the arguments presented objectively. I believe an objective evaluation would find it far from true.

However, I would like to suggest that the Malays must also qualify for the discounted prices while mantaining the 50% quota target. The rich Malays should not qualify. At the same time the non-Malays can also qualify for the discounted price in the event they fall within a certain income category. This would assist in dispelling the race stigma attached to such programmes while mantaining the basic objective of the programme. It would also prevent the occurrence of squeezing a poor member of the ‘minority’. Squeezing the rich is not a problem because they can probably afford the squeeze.

I do not think that PAS is therefore similar to UMNO in this respect. PAS accepts that justice must be the basis of nation building. The vision and understanding of a just society must obviously be agreed to by all parties in PR.

WalLahu 'Alam


Anonymous said…

What is Pakatan doing about the crime rate?
Or is that Syed Hamid's domain?
Tome Cruise said…
Dear YB,

Thanks for your prompt and comprehensive response to my comments. I am touched.

I better put my reply in point forms for readability. Every statement of yours will be followed immediate by my comments or opinions.

1. Umar Al-Khattab opposed the taking over the fortune left behind by the retreat Roman army.

In your article when you said the Muslim, wished to take over the estate, farms and such and fill in the vaccuum left by the Romans. Did you mean legally take over or illegally take over?

Since it was just after a war I assume quite a significant number of peasants and people died or seeked refuge at other places. Those tangible assets especially lands and buildings were still under private properties. The properties should then be given to the owners, theirs inherits, relatives or the communities.

However if it was a legal purchase (legal market force) by Muslim buyers over the property of non-Muslim, it should b encouraged. As long as the buyer is willing to pay higher prices and the seller is willing to accept the purchase, prohibit the trade is discriminating the Muslim buyer and the non-Muslim owner.

Who do you think the owner will sell the land to if the Muslim buyer pay higher price than non-Muslim buyer?

I admire the generosity and the wisdom of the Umar since he had the chance to take over the fortune of the peasants by force. After all it was a bloodshed war among Muslim and their ex-enemies.

2. Affirmative policy is an accepted norm in modern day societies.

An implemented affirmative policy does not mean it is accepted by societies especially the minority societies. After all, the decision of the policy is up to their BIG brother to decide.

Anyway from the stand of philanthropy I support the affirmative action with the RIGHT objective regardless of their skin's colour, religions and cultures. It should purely be based on needs. The poor from Indian etc should enjoy the same amount of help as those enjoy by the poor Malay.

At the same time the benefits enjoy shall not be so good until diminishing the desire of the poor to improve their life.

Giving out the discount of house above certain value to certain race is not acceptable at all. Why should we subsidy the luxurious life of the richer people just because of their race? Don’t you think the money can be used more effectively in other area where has higher priority?

Let me take the national car policy as an example where the affirmative policy has given us more damages than benefits.

After few decades of the policy we successfully created a poor- financial-stricken national car company, PROTON. With heavy tax on the imported car the company is still fighting for surviving.

The ordinary people are losing out since they have to pay an unjustified higher amount of money to get a 'comparable bad quality' of car. Malaysia also lost the chance to be the centre of car maker in ASEAN. A significant amount of potential jobs were handed over to Thailand and Indonesia. In another term we have sacrificed our economic growth and people needs just to retain our national car maker.

Why? Because Malaysia BOLEH.

The only group benefited from the policy I could think of is the management team of the national car maker where they have been earning well pay and doing poor jobs.

In a bigger picture, just imagine how many of staffs in management team in government linked company (GLC) are really suitable and capable. They are selected most probably because of their skin and certain 'talent'. At the end the people are suffered since government has to repeatedly pumping more money to rescue the poor performance company.

Affirmative action is needed for the poor and not for the people in high level management. We are playing an extremely high risk game by giving out the management of GLC to hand of those incapable people.

Political parties should instead stand clear of any business decisions since they have no expertise on a business world.

2. Ensuring distributive justice (race-based) and ensuring the minimal negative impact on economic development and transparency in implementation.

Why should we argue on how many percentage of fortune certain race get? It is meaningless to most of the people. Since the fortune could be concentrated in limited number of super rich people. Having more super rich Chinese does not mean ordinary Chinese are better off than Malay in economic term.

Instead the more meaningful number to most of the Malaysia is the percentage of the low and middle income group. Government should focus on helping those people instead of fighting the share of the economic pie.

After 50 years of independent we are still arguing who get the most share of the economic pie. The discriminated policy has been sacrificing our economic growth and torn our society apart.

We might not be able to distribute the economic pie among the race line however we can ensure most of the people at least fall in the middle class.

Hence every child of Malaysian should have the same access into the education and job updrading programme. With the higher education and skills we are able to enjoy a better living.

Do you believe that a 50% quota housing scheme only lead to a minimal negative impact on economic development? I doubt so.

3. Policies aiming at protecting the right of a race are not necessarily 'racist'. Chinese wish to have their Chinese language schools so as Malay wish to have a fairer share of the economic cake.

They are totally different things. The right of learning mother tounge is basic human right just like the right to breathe, the right to embrace any religions or none, the right of freedom of speech, the right of accessing to education programme etc.

However the right to have fairer share of economic pie (MONEY) should only be based on the skills and efforts put in.

We all know the fortune is created by talents and efforts. By introducing race based affirmative policy we are denying better talents and efforts. Do you think we can succeed in the world stage with such policy?

If we exclude out the fortune generated by oil and non-human resources, and take the inflation into consideration, the annual growth of our beloved country could be significantly lower.

Giving out the MONEY for FREE based on race is not acceptable at all. But preparing everybody on the skill to earn MONEY is acceptable. With the fairer competition rules and more skillful people we will definitely create more fortune.

4. Helping Indian communities from the estates is not racist.

Of course it is racist. But it is not racist if you say helping the poor communities from the estates. Helping the poor Indian from the estate but not helping the Malay from city is racist. Please justify the help based on needs.

5. These lands are originally Malay reserve land. Hence conversion of these lands from 100% Malays ownership to 50% Malay ownership is 'compromised' number.

I am not going to argue on the Malay reserve land or I might be put into jail one day.

In the worst case if Kedah government insists to proceed the policy can you ensure the 50% quota policy only limit to housing project developed on the Malay reserve land?

Do you know that the Malay reserve land has comparable lower value compare to non-restricted land?

Ironically the root cause is the policy of Malay reserved land itself. At the end the owner of the Malay reserve land is losing out.

7. Malays must qualify for discounted prices and mantaining 50% quota target. Rich Malays are excluded out. Poor non-Malay is qualified as well.

I totally disagree with that. It is really racist. We should only give out the discount or subsidy for housing below certain values regardless of races.

Why we need to give discount to those buying expensive houses? They should not be the target of affirmative policy.

8. Squeezing the rich is not a problem.

Note: when you say the rich here I assume the really rich and not the middle class. Middle class consist of the vast majority of Malaysian population and they are the victims of the economical downturn. Hence I believe they need certain passive help such as reduction of income tax.

I agree with you on that.

However squeezing more on the non Malay rich than the rich Malay is racist.

Squeezing the rich is not an ethical problem.
However in practical it will only bring disaster if squeeze too much. The rich are highly mobilized group they can go anywhere as long as they find the higher return of their money.

This was what being taken into consideration by Singapore government when they planned to reduce the income tax of the company and individual. The government had no choice but reduced the income tax after Hong Kong and certain countries initiated the reduction. The government treated the rich as an asset and they did not want to lose them. They knew that they would end up losing more if they did not reduce the income tax since the rich would pull out their investment or left their jobs for other places.

The government introduced GST (5% then followed by 7%) as a new income. With the sufficient income the government could then offer the help based on needs.

Note: income tax charged comparably higher on the rich than the poor. GST tax charged on every goods being traded. The poor is affected here.

Please accept the rich is an asset of the nations and not a liability.

Why do you think the rich can be rich?

They become rich because the people 'want' them to. They have been delivering the best services and products to societies. Hence the people come to them to buy their services and products. They increase the value of our money by delivering better goods and services. They might even provide jobs for us to support our beloved family. They increase society efficiency and dynamism and even 'pumping' in the money to the government pocket.
Anonymous said…
hati2 YB khalid dengan jed yoong ni, dia pernah MAKI Hj Hadi dalam FACEBOOK

ada ke dia kata PAS tukar presiden, tulis dalam profil Hj Hadi pulak tu

jgn layan sangat dia saja nak promote blog dia

lain kali kalau dia datang acara PAS sebagai wartawan, sound sikit dia supaya jangan BIADAP terhadap pemimpin PAS

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