The New Economic Policy beyond 50: Retire or Refresh?


About the Seminar
Malaysia’s NEP just turned fifty. Launched in 1971, the NEP has transformed Malaysia through its “two-pronged” development strategy of: (1) poverty reduction irrespective of race; (2) social restructuring to reduce racial imbalances, especially by promoting Bumiputera upward mobility and capability.
In 2021, the country was consumed by pandemic recovery and political tumult, but also launched two policy frameworks: the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP) 2021-25 in August, and the Bumiputera Development Action 2030 (TPB2030) roadmap in December. While 12MP and TPB2030 have commenced, national debates stay stagnant.
Two debates do a disservice to Malaysia. The first perpetuates polarization and deadlock, with opposing sides taking hard and uncritical pro-NEP vs anti-NEP stances. The second, more akin to a non-debate, stems from consensus around nebulous notions of “need-based” assistance as a comprehensive replacement for “race-based” policies.
Misguided mindsets persist, but Malaysia can start afresh by building on the NEP’s two prongs – with key resets and updates. This new paradigm systematically identifies objectives and instruments, with two policy domains seeking to: (1) uphold equality in well-being and dignity through universal provisions; (2) promote fairness and equitable representation in participation and capability, through group-targeted measures based on identity, need and merit.

About the Speaker

Lee Hwok Aun is a Senior Fellow and Co-coordinator of the Malaysia Studies Programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. He is the author of Affirmative Action in Malaysia and South Africa: Preference for Parity, and of numerous articles on affirmative action, inequality, discrimination, social protection, labour and education. Various works on Malaysia’s NEP are published in the ISEAS Perspective and ISEAS Trends in Southeast Asia series.




This is a hybrid event which will be held at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS).

Attending the Event In-person at ISEAS

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Seating capacity is limited. Do register early to avoid disappointment.


Attending the Event Virtually via Webinar

To join the event virtually at the specified date and time using your internet devices, please register here to receive your unique login link for the webinar via the zoom platform.

If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


May 17 2022


3:00 pm - 4:15 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2 / Webinar