Fifty Years of The New Economic Policy: Revisiting Its Impact on Social Cohesion, National Unity and
Fifty Years of The New Economic Policy: Revisiting Its Impact on Social Cohesion
In 2021, the New Economic Policy (NEP) commemorates its 50th birthday. This is an opportune moment to revisit the NEP, especially its philosophical underpinnings, its achievements, impact, challenges and unintended consequences, and the lessons that can be drawn for future development and nation building efforts. The NEP is a strategic plan for nation building with the overriding objective to achieve national unity. However, it is pertinent to note that even after 50 years of the NEP, a National Unity Plan had to be crafted and introduced in early 2021. This implies that issues of inter-ethnic/race relations, unity, social cohesion, national identity and nation building are still very much with us. These issues cannot be taken for granted, and must be addressed seriously in academic and policy discourses, and embedded in policy making and implemented.
This paper will first, examine the context in which the New Economic Policy (1971-1990) emerged and the ‘package’ that came together with it, and show that the NEP’s over- riding objective was very much linked to the national question, namely the building of a united and cohesive Bangsa Malaysia. The paper will also assess the NEP’s impact, and ‘measure’ the extent of social cohesion among various ethnic groups. This will be followed with an analysis of the challenges in building Bangsa Malaysia since the end of the 20th century and the first few decades of the 21st century, while the conclusion will present some ideas in moving forward.