Challenges inevitable, but let’s be pragmatic

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Panellists discussing UNDP's 'Redesigning an Inclusive Future’ report.Panellists discussing UNDP's 'Redesigning an Inclusive Future’ report.Panellists discussing UNDP’s ‘Redesigning an Inclusive Future’ report.

While great strides have been taken and many improvements have been made to Malaysia’s economy, and absolute poverty in the country has fallen, there remains much to be done in terms of ensuring that the nation’s growth is enjoyed by all the rakyat regardless of race, religion or social background, according to the Malaysia Human Development Report 2013 (MHDR).

Entitled ‘Redesigning an Inclusive Future’, the 362-page report was released in November 2014 by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Malaysia, and is the first independent report of its kind in Malaysia since the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP).

In a briefing held at the ISU Theatre in the Prime Minister’s Department recently, one of the report’s main researchers, Khazanah Research Institute’s Research Director Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid, summarised the report’s methodologies, information sources, primary findings and key recommendations.

Also presenting at the briefing as well as the subsequent panel discussion was the MHDR’s lead researcher, University Malaya (UM) Adjunct Professor of Economics and Development Studies Tan Sri Datuk Dr. Kamal Salih, UM Senior Lecturer of Development Studies Dr. Lee Hwok Aun, and Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, UNDP Resident Representative for Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Hosted by the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), the nation’s lead agency in spearheading the Government Transformation Programme and the Economic Transformation Programme, the briefing was well-attended by senior officials from various ministries and other statutory bodies, including Khazanah Nasional Bhd., the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resources.

In his opening remarks at the briefing, Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, PEMANDU CEO and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said that challenges were inevitable as Malaysia moves towards becoming a high-income country.

“Policy changes have to be made, but from the ground, quite aside from these changes, there are a number of implementation issues to be resolved,” he clarified. “We at PEMANDU have always taken a very pragmatic approach; get things started and fix issues as they arise. And if along the way, further policy changes have to be made, fix them too. The MHDR therefore presents an interesting viewpoint into what improvements can be made.”

During the briefing, Dr. Kamal pointed out that a magic solution that would solve all of the Malaysia’s inclusive growth challenges did not exist.

“That’s not how it works in reality; you cannot solve problems with a silver bullet. The MHDR contains a number of recommendations, many of which are interrelated and require serious political will to see them through,” he said. He further clarified that as the challenges that Malaysia faces are complex and multi-dimensional, so the solutions are similarly comprehensive in nature.

Responding to another query from the audience concerning any pointers Malaysia could pick up from other countries in similar situations, Dr. Kamal noted that countries with similar economies and multi-racial populations, such as Fiji, Suriname and South Africa, are themselves looking to Malaysia for inspiration, a clear indication that the nation’s policies have worked out to some degree.

The complete report can be downloaded at http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/mhdr_2013.pdf.

Visit http://mhdr.my/ for more information on the MHDR.

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