Panel formed to look into welfare of Malaysian Indians

June 27th, 2008 - 1:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 27 (IANS) Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has formed a new governmental panel to look into the welfare of Indians that would study greater training for youth and micro-credit for ethnic Indians. The cabinet committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and Malaysian Indian Congress President S. Samy Vellu, would meet next Monday, Badawi announced Thursday.

One of the issues before the committee would be to study the fall of Indian equity ownership from 1.5 percent to 1.1 percent, raising the question whether the Indian community has the capacity to absorb more funds.

The other issues to be discussed are the standard of living of the ethnic Indian community, estimated at 2.6 million, that is eight percent of Malaysia’s 28 million, and ways to improve and upgrade their lifestyles, The Star newspaper said.

Badawi told the media that setting up of the committee was part of the Mid-Term Review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Commenting on measures to improve the lot of the ethnic Indians in the Mid-Term Review, expert Denison Jayasooria approvingly noted that the incidence of poverty has dropped from 5.7 to 3.6 percent nationally.

“However, the figures are still alarming in Sabah at 16 percent and Sarawak at 4.2 percent,” he said writing in the New Straits Times.

More data pertaining to poverty, equity, employment, education should be released, Jayasooria said, adding the Mid-Term Review provided “an excellent opportunity to address socio-economic imbalances and grievances of the Indian community”.

The review has made some efforts in addressing Indian youth issues through skills and entrepreneurship training, re-affirming that 3,000 youth will be reached. It also breaks new ground in providing skills training to 6,260 and micro-credit of RM3 million ($900,000 approx.).

Jayasooria, however, noted that the review continued to reaffirm increasing the share of Indian equity ownership to 1.5 percent by 2010.

This meant a shortfall in that in 1999, Indian equity ownership was 1.5 per cent and the federal government target was to raise it to three percent by 2010. Going by the Mid-Term Review, Indian equity ownership had dropped to 1.1 percent.

Jayasooria concluded that the Indian community has neither the capacity nor the extra cash to participate in the economy in a big way.

Jayasooria is the former executive director of MIC’s Social Strategic Foundation.

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