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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ibrahim says Pemandu has ‘hidden agenda’

Opening up the economy to foreign ownership is also an opposition idea, according to the Perkasa chief.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government’s liberalisation efforts took another beating from influential Malay rights group Perkasa which warned today against opening up the economy to foreign ownership.

At the unveiling of Budget 2012, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced the opening up 100 percent foreign ownership of 17 sub-sectors aimed at recapturing straying investments.

Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali, a staunch advocate of Mahathir-era protectionist policies, said the move would sideline Bumiputera businesses, adding that liberalisation is an opposition idea.

He also took a swipe at the Performance and Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) for advocating the move to open the 17 sub-sectors.

Ibrahim, the independent Pasir Mas MP, in his speech during the Budget 2012 debate in the Dewan Rakyat, said Pemandu had a “hidden agenda” in promoting liberalisation.

“Liberalisation is an idea promoted by the opposition… the Malay Chamber of Commerce had even made a strong statement against it but it is not heeded.

“I urge the government not to listen to Pemandu because if it implements liberalisation (as advocated by Pemandu), the latter’s hidden agenda would take place,” he said.

Key sectors remain caged

Najib is trying to make liberalisation a key aspect of his New Economic Model (NEM) as he aims to resuscitate the country’s ailing economy.

Race-based affirmative action and Bumiputera protectionist policies have prompted capital flight and caused a deep drop in foreign investments, forcing Malaysia to play catch-up with its neighbours despite being Asean’s economic powerhouse once.

But pressure from groups like Perkasa and hardliners within Umno has pushed Najib’s economic reforms to take a backseat as the unelected premier needs stronger Malay support in the coming general election in a bid to consolidate his position in the party.

Najib’s liberalisation policies are also said to have failed in stimulating the private sector as key industries like oil and gas and finance remain caged in protectionism.

Even if there is any real plan to free the lucrative oil and gas industry, Ibrahim has already warned of potential Malay backlash.

“If the oil industry is liberalised, some 3,000 vendors under (national oil company) Petronas would be sidelined, so what will happen to them? Beware, do not listen to Pemandu,” he said.

He has in the past described Pemandu “as not Malay enough”, accusing the body of trying to influence Najib to implement policies that would threatened the position of the country’s ethnic majority.

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