PETALING JAYA: Nazir Razak, the son of second prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein, suggested today the formulation of a new social contract to ensure a better future — economically, politically and socially.
Speaking in a webinar on the future of Malaysia’s social cohesion model, the former CIMB Group chairman said there was need for a review of the “implicit social contract”, adding that it seemed to apply to nearly everything in the country.
He then reiterated his call for the setting up of a National Consultative Council (NCC) to bring leaders of respective fields together to carve out a new way forward for the nation.
“We actually need to go back to the table and negotiate between communities. Have leaders around the table and agree on a new social contract.
“You know, what was said at the NCC in the 1970s was not recorded. They were told they could say what they wanted, and there was a robust discussion.
“Tun Razak and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman just sat and listened. Then they came up with the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was innovative at the time,” he said at the talk hosted by Universiti Malaya’s Asia-Europe Institute.
Nazir said it would be difficult to address social cohesion on its own as it was intertwined with politics and the economy, adding that the most harmless reform could be swiftly racialised and shot down.
He cited how his brother, former prime minister Najib Razak, had tried to do away with affirmative action and implement a needs-based New Economic Model, which was blown out of the water.
“Try to withdraw affirmative action today and PAS, Umno and others will rally the troops and say it’s taking away Malay rights. If you push for electoral reforms, they’ll say it’s taking away the power of Malays. So it can’t be done in isolation.”
He acknowledged that the current government might lack the political will to set up the NCC, but said the council could even be set up by the Council of Rulers.
Not resetting the system would mean the same old problems, he said, noting how Pakatan Harapan was also plagued with the same issues despite its initially more moderate stance.
“Basically, PPBM was trying to compete with Umno and PAS (for Malay votes), driving uncertainty with ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination) and others. That’s why we need to fix the system.
“Malaysia is like a badly written play. No matter how good the actors are, they still have to recite their lines. So, we need to change the script,” he added.
Meanwhile, Edmund Terence Gomez, a political economy professor at Universiti Malaya, in saying the race-defined patronage system had conditioned the thinking of the electorate, agreed with Nazir that it must be dismantled.
As the nation dealt with a recession in 1986, he said then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad removed the NEP restrictions in the manufacturing sector, leading to an influx of investments and the economy booming.
He said this was a lesson Putrajaya should have learned from, maintaining that the affirmative action under the NEP should have been kept to its initial 20-year period instead of being extended.
However, he disagreed with Nazir’s suggestion that a NCC be tasked with charting the nation’s future, expressing concern over who would get to sit on the council and how effective it would be in light of the failures of similar bodies in the past.
“We need to move away from the ideas of the 1970s. A new generation has emerged which wants new ideas.”
He mooted a German social market economy model, developed right after the Second World War, which eventually led to Germany being one of the biggest industrial nations.