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Paradigm shift needed; strategise for advancement

Publish date: Fri, 01 Mar 2024, 11:34 AM

“DRASTIC action” and “paradigm shift” are terms that are often used at government and academic conventions on social and economic problems, and the national congress on empowering the bumiputra is no different.

What is different is that the global and local economic landscape that was presented on the first day of the congress showed that the window to take action and shift the paradigm is closing.

Experts including former university dons, ministers, top civil servants and retail magnates are warning that the world today is different from the one that faced the bumiputra community when the first congress was held in 1965.

Local, regional and world economies have also changed from the roaring 1990s when Malaysia was able to emerge as a South-East Asian economic tiger through industrialisation which saw household incomes grow significantly every year, said deputy minister Liew Chin Tong.

Today, Malaysia and the world as a whole, faces a “polycrisis”, said Economy Ministry secretary-general Datuk Nor Azmie Diron, referring to a situation where multiple challenges happen at the same time.

These include environmental catastrophes brought about by climate change, an ageing society which means there will be fewer able-bodied workers, geo-political conflicts that affect supply chains, cross-border pandemics and food insecurity.

This is while the bumiputra community lags behind other communities in terms of median household income (0.71:1), wages (0.83:1), home ownership (73%) and skilled occupations (61%), said Nor Azmie.

“Based on these indicators, bumiputra are still left behind. This requires a paradigm shift and drastic measures to increase their capability and competitiveness,” said Nor Azmie.

The necessity of paradigm shifts was repeated in the cluster discussions yesterday, where experts presented findings of specific fields, subjects and industries which the bumiputra should focus on.

These include education reform, development of Felda and regional areas, business competitiveness and the halal industry.

Felda for instance, whose smallholders are almost all bumiputra, also needed to change its approach to oil palm growing if they wanted to increase their income, said Felda chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

This is since Malaysia’s palm oil industry today faces increased competition from other grower countries, uncertain yields due to changing weather patterns and stricter environmental laws.

For bumiputra in the oil palm sector to earn more, Ahmad Shabery said the government needs to craft a circular economy policy where the commodity’s waste can be turned into aviation fuel and animal feed.

“If this is done, it is set to be a game changer for not only those in the palm oil industry but also other commodities such as the rubber industry,” he said.

In the halal industry, Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said bumiputra businesses need fundamental shifts if they want to succeed in exporting their products.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority estimates that halal food exports in global markets is expected to reach RM13.3 trillion by 2027.

Understanding opportunities in the market, persevering against financial and marketing setbacks and having the relevant certifications are among prerequisites to success said Ameer Ali.

“I will suggest a business be strong in the local market first unless you’re selling something unsellable in Malaysia.”

Ameer Ali said the government can also assist bumiputra businesses by mandating that 70% of its gift baskets such as Bakul Rahmah comprise halal and bumiputra products.

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