Monday, May 25, 2015

11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020)

This is rather late as a comment on such a critically important document which came out on 21st May, 2015. This 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) is the five-year plan that is supposed to bring us (the nation) out of the woods of our current economic doldrums and into the bright shiny world of an advanced developed nation by 2020 when everybody under the Malaysian sun will live happily and without a care in the world.

The overall theme of "Anchoring Growth on People" is laudable, although the immediate question I would ask is how else would anyone anchor the growth of any economy on except its people. Are the planners thinking of foreign capital or the invasion by drones of other rich countries?

"Anchoring Growth on People" being theme, there are Six Strategic Thrusts to bring out that flavour of policies. I shall be unfair here. I do not agree with what I read, so I am going to put down what those thrusts ideally be.

1. Enhancing Inclusiveness. You either have inclusiveness in the first place, or you do not have. I therefore do not think that "enhancing inclusiveness" is a good term to use. "Inclusiveness" itself is another ambiguous term. In simple English, it means everybody is included. In what? The common sense answer is in everyday life, of course - decent education, economic opportunities, decent public amenities, good law and order and security. These are very basic things in life. But the 11MP takes "inclusiveness" as a term to conquer problems which could take a new political system and decades to achieve: eliminating the low income groups (this is technically impossible unless we do a communist model where everybody is equally poor), the rural areas which by definition are those that are not as developed as urban centres (remember that urban centres grew out of once rural areas), and the Bumiputra economic community whose status is to be further enhanced (and this brings us right back to the NEP).

2. Improving Well-Being. Quality healthcare, affordable housing, neighbourhoods, sports and physical activity. I suppose this is about town planning and not letting developers ruin the cities by overbuilding and escalating real estate prices year after year. This is about controlling bank lending into unproductive real estate development.

3. Speeding Up Human Capital Development. The Plan says the government will create more jobs opportunities for highly-skilled workers. But it doesn't say how. It elaborates on how to train potential workers.

4. Pursuing a Green Agenda. Better quality of life and all that. It is a repetition of (2) above.

5. Strengthening Infrastructure. This is an integral part of any economic development plan. In fact, these are triggers to direct investments. This overlaps (6) below.

6. Re-Engineering Economic Growth. What we want to do here will have implications for (5). We want to value-add in all industries in all sectors through creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship. But do we know how? Are we inclusive here, or are we assuming that only one group needs extra help while the others can fend for themselves.

High Income
This term is badly used. The US$15,000 per person is old hat. Basically, the target is the lowest income of the group of countries which the World Bank, in its wisdom, termed as "High Income". As rich countries grow, as they inevitably will, even at 2-3% p.a., the target is constantly drifting further away. I think the figure is now higher, and can look it up in the World Bank website.

Malaysia is supposed to be one rung down last time, but we could not be classified in the "stuck economies" group - economies going sideways because they have squandered this capital through corruption and hence outflows while leaving the economies deficient of investments and hence incomes unable to rise.

Concluding Remarks
This is obviously not a very professional review of the 11MP. It is not meant to be professional. It is meant to be critical veering on cynicism. But there could be much more truth here than in the document, which is a bunch of pages with words and figures. But I am not connected with it. It does not excite me as a person, as a citizen, as a worker, as an investor. I think it was just another ordinary day, that 21st May, 2015.