Pemandu CEO Idris Jala on inclusive growth (excerpt):
TRANSFORMATION is not all about income. Yes, income is the key part and we put a lot of emphasis on and look at ways and means to increase that, but we are equally aware that income must reach everyone.
There must be inclusiveness in development that is, the drive towards achieving developed status by getting a per capita income of US$15,000 (RM46,795) a year by 2020 must include as many people as possible in that process.
Importantly, we must develop at a pace which we can sustain over time without putting too much strain on our available resources, not rush at breakneck speed with no thought of the morrow.
We must also give thought to the preservation of the environment and conservation in our development plans. These highlight the need to keep our development sustainable in addition to being inclusive.
This balanced approach to development, which combines high income with sustainability and inclusiveness, is what provides us with a sense of perspective about development, the ultimate purpose of which is improve the quality of life for everyone.
Many countries in their development programmes did not focus on the other aspects of development such as inclusiveness and sustainability. They paid the price for it with lop-sided development and an increasing gap between the rich and poor.
We have much to do in this respect as our Gini Coefficient (a measure of the gap between rich and poor where low means greater income equality) is very high and we are taking measures to deal with this…
I remember asking him a year or so back, how the ETP was going to address Malaysia’s income and wealth inequality problem. I admit I was somewhat disappointed with the answer as it was a variation of “trickle-down” economics, which I’m sceptical of, e.g. a rising tide lifts all boats. That hasn’t been an effective approach in the past.
At least here, we’re seeing the national conversation being directed in what I think should be the right mode – looking at the issue directly rather than solving it as a by-product of economic growth. There’s also a growing awareness of environmental issues, both in this piece and in others, and I don’t mean Lynas alone.
Even PR’s manifesto appears to be finally taking the issue of inequality a bit more seriously, even if they don’t appear to have given it much thought beyond its surface manifestation of poverty and in labour-employer relations.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading in development economics this past month, and I’m hearing a lot of echoes here.
But returning to the issue of inequality, the whole problem is a lot deeper than it looks – and certainly should not defined solely by income gaps between the top and bottom, or between Bumis and Chinese and Indians. Economic and social mobility for instance, for which we don’t have good data (but, if I can jump the gun a little, will be forthcoming).
But before we can come up with substantive policies, we need inequality to come into the national consciousness without the baggage of legacy issues. It’s baby steps at the moment, but at least in the right direction.