Don’t compare Malaysia’s progress to others, says researcher

(FMT) – While it is true that many countries have overtaken Malaysia economically, there is little point in fixating on these comparisons.

Instead, policy direction must take a longer-term approach if the country is to reach its potential, said a senior research adviser at the Khazanah Research Institute.

Speaking at the virtual “Malaysia 2021 Prospects and Challenges” forum organised by the Merdeka Center, Jomo Kwame Sundaram said he misses the thinking behind Wawasan 2020, which presented a long-term national policy direction.

“We are adrift because the government is short-termist and survivalist, hardly optimal for the progress of the country.

“Elections wouldn’t necessarily solve this, but we must recognise that we live in a world where we can do far, far better, and that Vision 2020 did provide some guidelines on where we should be moving.”

He said that the country had at times “shot itself in the foot,” which he called the “tragedy of Malaysia,” by embracing policies that did not propel the country forward.

Jomo added that this must be accompanied by a cultural shift among people away from “being more impressed with credentials and titles” than with “genuine understanding,” particularly citing the spread of “bogus” information on social media.

Looking forward to 2021, he said he hopes the response to Covid-19 has brought adequate relief to the groups who have been neglected thus far, such as those involved in petty business and people on daily wages, who have not had equitable access to aid compared with workers in more formal industries.

“It is very important to take care of them in the near term,” he said.

He also said that given the uncertainty that comes with a reliance on foreign investment, Malaysia must put forth the building blocks for sustainable long-term development.

“We need to produce more renewable energy as we are well placed to do so and move forward, and we must place more emphasis on our supply of fruit and vegetables and the nutrition of future generations.”