One of the biggest issues in Malaysia concerns of course affirmative action (AA). Nothing will create as much sensation in the political scene as much as AA. Talk about the AA and you will see chickens flying and cows swimming. It becomes sensitive as it relates to the special privileges (or some call ‘special rights’) of a certain race. Many if not all would say that such AA is part of the social contract agreed upon by our forefathers and therefore is something which is sacred and untouchable. Recently there has been a whole new discourse by a certain politician who contended that the AA should no longer be based on race but on class, in that all that is poor should be helped. This created ripples within the political arena but nevertheless he was given tremendous support by the rakyat. It would seem that the rakyat favoured a new policy which was more fair and transparent and which could better serve the purpose of social justice. But let’s just take this discourse a bit further. Instead of formulating a new AA based on class, why not just abolished this policy altogether?
Firstly, AA does not address the root issue of poverty. It seeks to balance society but it fails to tackle the problem at its roots. The real issue to be identified and addressed is this, what is it that causes poverty? By implementing AA, we are working on the premise that there must always be poverty. Hence we will always have the poor but its ok; we will address this with AA. Thus poverty is a necessity and always necessary.
Secondly, to fund AA, we need a source of income. Now where do we get this source of income? By tax? The problem which arises is this; can we tax the rich to give to the poor? If yes how much? To what extend? Or we can do this. Malaysia is rich with petroleum. Why not fund this policy with profit gained from the export of petroleum? We can certainly do this. But then again what happens when the price of petrol drops out of a sudden. This will cause profits to decrease drastically. When this happens where else do we get the income to fund the AA? The whole economy risks distortion because calculation based on earlier petrol prices will now have to be reviewed, causing everything else which was based on this earlier calculation to collapse.
Thirdly, to implement AA, we will need groups and departments of staff to handle administrative matters. This will result in a top heavy government. More personnel will be needed merely to carry out administrative purposes. Additional cost in terms of salary will also have to be paid by the government, increasing government spending.
Fourthly, human knowledge is limited and never complete. The level of knowledge of every individual also differs, making reactions towards a particular policy different and hence resulting also in different outcomes. No doubt it is noble to want to help the poor, to eradicate poverty. The question is this, how can we be sure that what we’re doing is actually helping each and every individual? It is beyond the intellect of a single mind or a group of persons with a single intention or intentions to achieve an intended outcome. Because every individual is different, order in society exists due to different level of interactions between each and every individual. Any attempt to introduce a coherent and uniform plan will certainly fail as it assumes that, and wants, each individual to behave the same way.