The Malaysian government is aiming to eradicate poverty irrespective of race.
According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Dato’ Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), which was recently passed by the House of Representatives, contains goals that were set as high as seemed possible, in order to spur the nation’s efforts to achieve them. Dato’ Seri Wahid, formerly CEO of Maybank, referred to these targets as ‘stretch targets’ or ‘stretch goals’, concepts and terms that originated from the corporate sector.
He said this during the recent #TanyaGomen session held at Platinum Sentral concerning the 11MP and its impact on the rakyat. Organised by the Perfomance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU), the session featured the Minister being interviewed by independent journalist and founder of Fat Bidin Media Zan Azlee Zainal Abidin, followed by an open Q&A session with the audience as well as via a live Twitter feed.
As part of the session, Dato’ Sri Wahid (pic – right) elaborated on the background and the intents of the 11MP.
“Plans have to be made based on facts and the relevant data, which is why we conduct household income surveys according to international standards (twice every 5 years), for example. We then take these data and adjust our strategies accordingly in order to come up with an appropriate plan.”
While there were several targets from the 10th Malaysia Plan which were not met, Dato’ Sri Wahid pointed out that the achievements had to be seen in context. “We formulated the economic targets based on various estimates and ‘guesstimates’ concerning the global economy and various other factors. For example, while we did not hit our target of over 5.9% annual GDP growth, we still managed an annual GDP growth rate of 5.3%; albeit slightly lower than planned, still a respectable figure, given the challenging economic conditions prevailing, and when compared with other countries in the region – and indeed, globally – during the 10MP timeframe.”
Other targets, however, have been meet and even exceeded. Measured according to the poverty line income standard, Malaysia’s hardcore poor now forms only 0.6% of the population, as compared to 49.3% in 1970, a remarkable achievement from any perspective. “Moving on, we will be focusing on multi-dimensional poverty, which measures not only income, but access to basic education, healthcare services, and overall living standards,” Dato’ Sri Wahid elaborated.
Indeed, the 11MP will now look at increasing the incomes of the B40 group (the bottom 40% of households with combined monthly incomes of less than RM4,000). “To put things into perspective, there are 6.7 million households in Malaysia. Of those, the 0.6% hardcore poor comes to 42,800 households. However, the number of B40 households is 2.7 million. Our target is to increase their monthly incomes from an average of RM2,537 to over RM5,000 by 2020.”
He also pointed out that the Malaysian government is aiming to eradicate poverty irrespective of race.
Education remains key
When asked about whether or not the country’s leaders should be sending their children to international or private schools, Dato’ Sri Wahid replied that since this was now an allowable choice for Malaysians, it should be left up to the individual parents – whether in public service or in the private sector.
“For myself, I choose to send my two children to national (government) schools, so that they will grow up in an environment where they can mix with everyone. However, I am slightly saddened that now, national schools are experiencing a lack of diversity. I believe that diversity is a strength,” he shared.
Following the interview, Dato’ Sri Wahid took questions from the floor, as well as via Twitter. One of the queries submitted on Twitter was why it was important for Malaysia to achieve the ‘high-income nation’ status by 2020.
In his reply, Dato’ Sri Wahid pointed out that an increased Gross National Income would lead to better trade opportunities, better job prospects which would translate to higher household incomes and a better standard of living. “This is why we find it important to reach our goal of becoming a developed nation and grow our economy,” he said.
Responding to other questions from the audience concerning the use of nuclear power and the public’s reaction, Dato’ Sri Wahid noted that it was still far too early to make any decisions. “At the moment, there’s still a lot we have to study. From an environmental perspective, nuclear energy may be considered as more sustainable in the long-term when compared to burning fossil fuels, but in my opinion, it is far too soon to come to any conclusions. We’re still in the research phase.”
Towards the end of the session, Dato’ Sri Wahid requested that the Malaysian public join hands with the government in achieving the ‘stretch targets’ set in the 11MP.
“The 11MP actually outlines very general policies and strategies; the details are where implementations need to happen. For example, we outline 6 ways in which productivity can be increased; it is up to individual companies to take them and adapt them to their circumstances so that they can increase their productivity and reduce dependence on foreign labour.
“If we all focused on doing our part, God willing, we will indeed be able to achieve these lofty targets.”