In The News

Ahead of Elections, Malaysia on Track to Achieve Vision 2020

April 4, 2012

On Monday night, April 2, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced to the nation that the country was on track to achieve its goal of high-income developed nation status by 2020.

Unveiling the results of the first 2-year phase of the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), Najib proudly stated that the list of achievements has been “nothing short of astounding.”

Shoppers at a street market in Malaysia

Malaysia has witnessed impressive achievements in recent years, and, this week, Malaysia's PM announced that the country was on track to achieve its goal of high-income developed nation status by 2020. Photo by Amir Shariff.

The National Key Results Areas under the GTP are: reducing crime, fighting corruption, improving student outcomes, raising living standards of low-income households, improving rural basic infrastructure, improving urban public transport, and addressing the rising cost of living. Results in these areas include:

  • a 39.7 percent drop in the street crime rate, attributed to special police initiatives to prevent various types of vehicle theft and burglary;
  • the launch of a massive anti-corruption campaign and 64 Malaysian companies signing a Corporate Integrity Pledge to combat corruption;
  • a 5 percent increase in preschool enrollment and a 40.35 percent drop in low performing schools nationwide (thanks to the availability of more preschool classes and improved academic screening);
  • over 3,100 poor women have been trained as entrepreneurs and 44,000 households were raised out of poverty;
  • and 3.2 million rural dwellers have benefited from improved roads, increased electrification, new housing, and water supply.

The ETP focuses on 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEA) that are identified as significant engines of growth for Malaysia. These are: Oil, Gas and Energy; Palm Oil & Rubber; Financial Services; Tourism; Business Services; Electronics and Electrical; Wholesale and Retail; Education; Healthcare; Communications Content and Infrastructure; Agriculture; and Greater Kuala Lumpur/Klang Valley development. Together, their NKEAs comprise $444 billion of private-sector led projects. As a result of the ETP, Malaysia’s per capita income has risen to $9,700 from $6,700, investment rose to 94 billion ringgit ($31 billion), surpassing the government’s 83 billion-ringgit goal by 13 percent, and trade grew by 8.7 percent in the last year. Malaysia also improved its ranking on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index from 23 in 2010 to 18 in 2011 and on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Ranking from 26 to 21 in the same year.

Though some of the results, particularly against the GTP, represent inputs (schools built, women trained, campaigns launched) and are yet to yield sustainable impact, the 2-year report card is laudable and demonstrates government commitment in critical reform areas.

Significantly and strategically for Prime Minister Najib, these impressive results have been released just ahead of the much anticipated 13th general elections, likely to be called for June 2012. After the ruling Barisan Nasional Coalition suffered its most humiliating “win” in 2008, losing its two-thirds majority in parliament, Najib is determined to recover this lost ground. Riding on the success of the GTP and ETP, he urged Malaysians to stay the transformation course with his government: “Don’t experiment by changing a driver that has proven his ability in the middle of the journey, replacing him with a driver that raises doubt and is dangerous,” he said. According to a recent poll, Najib’s approval rating rose to 69 percent in February from 59 percent in August. It’s clear that Najib is leveraging the release of the GTP/ETP report card to further bolster public confidence and keep himself firmly in the driver’s seat.

Anthea Mulakala is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in Malaysia. She can be reached at amulakala@asiafound.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

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