- The normal pro-government media stance... but informative at least.
- The pro-view, which is typically from the business community, both Malay and non-Malay!
- The anti-view, which is being held by many ultra-Malays... interestingly, many who are vocal on this view are not involved in business!
- The opportunist view, as usual the PKR boys think this was all DS Anwar's idea in the first place and that DS Najib is stealing it... grow up!
Why was I not surprised? Because even if we aren't too bound by the WTO due to the on-going breakdown of trade talks and there being worse offenders, Malaysia has signed up to AFTA, the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, and being a leading light in ASEAN, we have to open up these sectors to ASEAN competition by 2010 anyway! Doing this early, at a time when our economy is arguably stronger than Thailand's and Singapore's has its advantages.
Being an ultra myself, and even knowing the above, I was still a little taken aback at how zen I was when the announcement was made. I know I'm not a pro-Najib fanatic, so I have done some soul searching about why I'm so relaxed about this... then it occured to me... for many of these service industries that are being liberalised:
- Even if international competition wants to come in, IT CANNOT SUCCEED WITHOUT LOCAL PARTNERS! This includes industries such as transport and tourism.
- There are some services in these sectors that MUSLIM MALAYS/BUMIS DON'T WANT TO BE INVOLVED IN ANYWAY AS IT IS PARTLY NON-HALAL! So, removing the 30% cap doesn't cause any loss to Malays, as we would not be interested in participating anyway. In fact, if said sectors are hence developed post cap removal, the resulting employment, and if you have scrupples, even indirect Halal employment, will be good for Malays.
- There is always the regulatory lever that the government can apply to safeguard not just Bumi, but Malaysian rights. Significant area would be in Healthcare. We can learn much from how the US, Australia and West Europeans do this.
I do have a couple of caveats though in my guarded indifference, if not enthusiasm, over this new policy move:
- I would oppose this if it ends up being a precursor to us signing up to the USFTA, which I believe is detrimental to the country's well-being, sovereignity and with even less benefit to be imagined now that the US economy is a mess and they have become more inward looking.
- I would oppose excessive liberalisation of the Financial sector... but we'll have to wait and see what gets announced there...
And the answer to the question as titled, I is believe NO. DS Najib and UMNO HAVE NOT COPPED OUT on Malay Rights... not yet anyway... hopefully not ever!