Race politics dominates Malaysia and our deplorable politics have us Malaysians as Bumiputras, Chinese, Indians and others.

At the center of it all is Malay politics. Yet, public statistics on Malay welfare are imprecise. This is true for household income and expenditure surveys conducted and published by the Department of Statistics. The surveys are the most comprehensive snapshots we have on the welfare of Malaysian households.

It is imprecise because the best we have to describe Malay welfare are not Malay statistics, but Bumiputra statistics.

The way the statistics is presented (or even measured) strengthens the flawed notion that the Bumiputras are Malays. Yet, we know the Bumiputras comprise not just the Malays but also the Orang Aslis in the Peninsula, and the Borneo natives.

Foreigners in particular are guilty of this but more unforgivably, so do the locals. When ethno-nationalist Malays want to back their point with hard data for instance, they would go to the household surveys and cite the Bumiputra figures as proofs, casually suggesting all Bumiputras are Malays with no hesitation as if there is nothing wrong with the statistics.

Our contemporary politics also means the recognition is not merely a pedantic concern. Sarawak parties especially are becoming increasingly important nationally, possibly convincing the federal government to spend more money there.

How can this be relevant? For example, I would like to know change in welfare of those Borneo native households as federal spending increases. It is not enough to claim they would do better because of the spending. We need data and it is certainly not enough with the Bumiputra net cast so widely.

So, as far as the category Bumiputra is concerned, I think it should be broken into its finer components to allow us to see exactly the state of various groups’ welfare.

After all, is it not ironic that for all the centrality of Malay politics, statistics on Malay welfare is not available on its own? We can know the income of the median Chinese and Indian households but we cannot know the median for Malay families. To belabor the point, what we know instead are Bumiputra statistics, which are at best a proxy to the state of the Malays. And we know it is a proxy because we know the Malays make-up the majority within the group. How big a majority? Interesting question, is it not?

And we also know how mean and median behave mathematically. Change in population will change both easily.

I have a lingering suspicion that the Malays are doing better than the reported Bumiputra average/median. My suspicion is based on the fact most Malays live in the Peninsula while the statistics show the Peninsula as a geographic group does better than the Malaysian Borneo (even when certain states such as Kelantan can do worse than Sarawak). The only way to conclusively address the suspicion is to look at the Bumiputra components cleverer than what we have been doing so far.

At the very least, regardless of my suspicion, improvement in reported welfare statistics with the Bumiputra category split into its constitutions can lead to better public debates and better policies. Without the split, we are forever condemned to debate from imprecise premises.

8 Responses to “[2807] Break-up the Bumiputra category into finer details”

  1. on 30 Nov 2015 at 16:54 Vincent Ang

    Why the need need for finer details. Are you afraid that the natives will ask for specific quotas like those reserved for the Malays? By the way, Orang Aslis are not considered Bumiputras in Ketuanan land.

  2. on 30 Nov 2015 at 18:05 Hafiz Noor Shams

    Why should I be afraid?

  3. on 01 Dec 2015 at 09:57 Vincent Ang

    Why not distinctions based purely upon definitions of economic disadvantages? Are you afraid non-race based definitions will take away the privileges of the Melayus.

  4. on 01 Dec 2015 at 10:56 Hafiz Noor Shams

    I have a feeling you didn’t read what I wrote.

    I wrote “I have a lingering suspicion that the Malays are doing better than the reported Bumiputra average/median. My suspicion is based on the fact most Malays live in the Peninsula while the statistics show the Peninsula as a geographic group does better than the Malaysian Borneo (even when certain states such as Kelantan can do worse than Sarawak). The only way to conclusively address the suspicion is to look at the Bumiputra components cleverer than what we have been doing so far.”

    Which means, if I supported race-based action (which I don’t but you assumed because of my name perhaps?), the non-Malay Bumis would be more deserving based on their socioeconomic status.

  5. on 01 Dec 2015 at 11:55 Vincent Ang

    You mean to tell that if the the Malays are actually doing better than the reported Bumiputra average by some miracle the racially distorted policies of Malaysia will somehow become fairer. Will you as a Malay or any of your friends give up your racial privileges in favour of policies which addresses the economic disadvantages of all Malaysians so as to give the ‘Bumiputras’ and nons a fairer shake? So far I have yet to meet a Malay who thinks his or her privileges based on race and Islam is somehow unfair. Nothing personal here.

  6. on 01 Dec 2015 at 12:11 Hafiz Noor Shams

    If the Malays were doing better, then by implication they’d need it less, which is the opposite of your earlier comment. Which means, others would need it more. Do you even read what I wrote, or are you intent on strengthening your own presumption?

  7. on 18 Dec 2015 at 12:03 Amir Hassan

    Mmmmm, I’m guessing said commenter hasn’t met enough Malays.

  8. […] form of NDP.   Malays may have reached or exceeded NEP’s and NDP’s goal, as per what Hafiz wrote as he found official statistics could be misleading by only quoting Bumiputera figure.  On top of that, both Reid Commission and Cobbald Commission, both foundation documents created […]

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