Hornbill Unleashed

August 25, 2014

The reality and hyperbole of high-income Malaysia by 2020

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

Government efficiency agency chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala had said yesterday that the gross national income per capita had been climbing steadily. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, August 24, 2014.THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

Government efficiency agency chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala had said yesterday that the gross national income per capita had been climbing steadily.

According to government efficiency agency chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Malaysia is on track to achieve its high-income target of US$15,000 (RM47,414) by 2020, if not sooner, as a result of the policies under the National Transformation Programme (NTP).

That is like Manchester United football team coach Louis Van Gaal predicting his team will win the English Premier League this year as a result of his player buys and tactics.

Or for that matter, Malaysia saying its football team will make it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Those are really targets, not reality until it happens. But Senator Jala, who heads the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu), is fond of taking numbers to insist the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and Government Transformation Programme (GTP) is working to plan.

Jala said yesterday gross national income per capita had climbed steadily from US$7,059 (RM22,313) in 2009 to US$10,060 (RM31,799) in 2013, representing a 42.5% growth during the period.

In a statement yesterday, he said since the launch of the ETP in 2010, the areas under the National Key Results Area (NKRA) have generated a total of 1.3 million additional employment opportunities, where the ETP targets to create 3.3 million new jobs by 2020.

One would like to believe him. After all, under his leadership, flag carrier Malaysia Airlines booked profits but flew back into red ink after he left. Why? Didn’t his policies stick and work for the national airline?

Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed also said approved pipeline investment has been increasing year-on-year since 2010, surpassing the government’s annual investment target of RM148 billion under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

In 2011, approved investment stood at RM154.6 billion; in 2012, RM167.8 billion; and in 2013, RM216.5 billion.

That should be good news for many of us but it remains as headline figures. The reality on the ground is that not many Malaysians are having a share of the wealth or a rise in incomes.

Putrajaya is using the assumption that once US$15,000 is achieved as per capita income, Malaysia will be a high income nation. As simple as that? But per capita income is not a reliable indicator as only 30% of per capita income counts as income, the rest are booked as profits.

After all, the statistics are just talking about per capita income, which is different from real income. For example, Forbes reported last March that in a year in which a weakening ringgit, a slowing economy and a lacklustre stock market hurt many of Malaysia’s richest, Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan managed to add US$1.6 billion to his kitty, more than anyone else.

Malaysia also now boasts 18 billionaires. Maybe that is a result of the ETP, but not the pittance earned by a majority of the 30 million Malaysians.

Bombastic figures will not get Malaysia to become a high-income economy. It takes hard work and real policies such as cutting our dependence on foreign workers.

After all, how many of the 1.3 million employment opportunities are taken up by locals, and how many by foreigners? How many are white-collar and how many blue-collar jobs?

How can Malaysia even talk about a high income economy when a significant percentage of the local workforce cannot make ends meet and do not appear to have the capability of doing so anytime soon.

We have soup kitchens in the cities and programmes for affordable housing. We have direct cash aid. How does that gel with Malaysia well on its way to a high income nation status by 2020?

That is why even though the government announced the 6.4% growth in the last quarter, it had little impact on the wellbeing of ordinary Malaysians. It is just a statistic, a headline figure and nothing more.

Jala and Pemandu’s time has been punctuated by fantastic headline numbers and hyperbole but both do not reflect the real situation on the ground.

Malaysia is six years away from 2020 and the target for a high-income nation. Repeating it ad nauseam won’t help the cause or the people who don’t feel the money that Putrajaya says is in our pockets.

The reality for most Malaysians is Malaysia might just be a higher-cost nation by 2020 with perhaps a few more billionaires to make sure the hyperbole per capita figure looks just right.



  1. The two most important considerations that determine the well being of the people are :
    1. Increase in Real Income, and
    2. The distribution of Real Income amongst the people – the gini ratio.
    Also as pointed out the 1.3 million job created in the NKRA areas- is it permanent jobs or temporary jobs and who fill the jobs – malaysian or foreigners. Also the profile for the remuneration of the job. These are very important consideration. No point throwing the figures just to paint a rosy picture when in reality it is stagnant and worst the opposite.

    Comment by Ali bin Abu — August 26, 2014 @ 6:52 AM | Reply

  2. Jual LPG Bottle in Colombo boleh lah.

    Comment by Ali bin Abu — August 25, 2014 @ 6:06 PM | Reply

  3. Wishful thinking. All of them Mat Jenin.

    Comment by Ali bin Abu — August 25, 2014 @ 6:05 PM | Reply

  4. He will advise us to sell our assets to raise cash!

    Comment by Hairu — August 25, 2014 @ 1:47 PM | Reply

  5. it is good to have Idris and Pemandu. He always paints a rosy picture of Malaysia’s economy but the reality is so different. Perhaps he should be more realistic and conservative instead of being overly optimistic and overzealous.

    Comment by tun-pehin — August 25, 2014 @ 10:16 AM | Reply

    • Reminds me of Iraq’s Comical Ali during Desert Storm.

      Comment by Hornbill Leashed and Gagged — August 25, 2014 @ 11:09 AM | Reply

    • We can become a high income nation higher than pemandu predicted if we sell all the Government assets in Malaysia under Pemandu leadership.

      Comment by Ali bin Abu — August 25, 2014 @ 6:09 PM | Reply

  6. been a senior citizen, just cant remember some one ever said: Sendiri cakap, sendiri Shiok…..

    Comment by tiuniamah — August 25, 2014 @ 8:42 AM | Reply

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