I was supposed to attend but didn't make it due to short notice, but managed to catch it live on TV just now.
1. The coverage ranges from poverty eradication, price distortions, middle-income trap, social safety net to high-income goal, political will, change, innovation, Bumiputra policy, investments, EPF, institutional change (MIDA) listed companies, GLCs, divestments, and property development. It is too comprehensive to be focused.
2. I feel at times that the first part of the speech was drafted by an analyst, which is a bit impersonal, while the latter part is a bit more gutsy and more categoric.
3. I feel that poverty cannot simply be eradicated by just raising the income level of the poorest section of society to solve the poverty problem. Poverty is inherent in the capitalistic system that we are in, and therefore needs a system to over-ride the system defect. A higher-income economy does not necessarily mean that will be no poverty. Widening the social safety net is one, but it must be seen as a systemic issue about helping those unable to participate in the mainstream.
3. The real juxtoposition is between change/high-income policy and the Bumiputra policy. There is so much psychological baggage from the latter that it is going to distort the thinking on economic policy. I suppose it is this politics that is hard to shake off. The Bumiputra policy has graduated out of the poverty discussion and is now concerned about rights in taking a cut in the pie. The PM talks about being more transparent in the tender process for Bumiputra where the definition of Bumiputra is now more inclusive of other Bumiputra. It is as lapis a cake as you can get, without the cream or core or investors of the economy.
4. EPF is to divest into foreign markets to make way for foreign investors to come to the Malaysia stock market. It is as silly an idea as you can get. I blame the advisers. I thought the original intention of having an EPF is to fund local development in order to accelerate the growth of the local economy. If you put an accountant in charge of the EPF, you are going to get a non-economic strategy.
5. The change/corporation of MIDA into the Malaysian Investment Development Authority is a step forward in removing the excessive power from the MOF who deals with all things strategically and financially important for the local economy. The trend should continue to remove more authority from the MOF, in lieu of the MOF authority not removed from the PM. (Would this mean that the MIDA CEO will now be half an MOF?)
6. When a PM talks about economic policy, he should just focus on policy. The moment he gets into specific cases, such as the divestments by GLCS and the nature of the divesments, I think we are zoomed back into the same old matrix.
I could have gotten some of the points off, so let's see what the reports say and see if I need to correct myself later.