|The Malaysia Africa High-Level Knowledge Exchange Seminar|
THE HON. DATO' DR . AWANG ADEK BIN HUSSIN
At The Malaysia Africa High-Level
21st September 2006
The Honorable Ministers of Finance from the African and Asian Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to be here and bid you all a very warm welcome to Malaysia. I like to thank you for taking the time to be with us in Kuala Lumpur, despite your busy schedule in Singapore attending to the demanding meeting arrangements at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting. We are honored that Malaysia is hosting this seminar to exchange knowledge and experiences in our respective countries, in our continuous efforts to bring economic development to our peoples. Thus the theme of the Seminar "Moving from a Natural Resource-Based towards a Developed Economy" is apt and timely. We are thankful to the World Bank for organizing this seminar and we believe it augurs well for a stronger South-South cooperation. We also hope that you will all have a pleasant stay in Kuala Lumpur.
2. Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yaacob, the Second Minister of Finance, has asked me to convey his warmest regards and best wishes as he is required to be in the Parliament at this time to wind up the debate on our own Budget 2007. It was tabled for debate in Parliament by the Prime Minister, as first Minister of Finance, on 1st September this year.
3. In fact we are very pleased that our 2007 Budget has been well received by virtually all sectors of the economy and all segments of our society. Many have even openly declared that it could easily pass as one of our best Budgets in the history of our country. Among the major initiative introduced are:
4. In Malaysia, the focus of the Government, among others, has always been on creating a conducive business environment to promote economic growth; improving the standards of education and access by poor students to education; and improving the civil service to enhance government delivery system in order to ensure that development projects reach the people in a timely manner.
5. We believe now our corporate tax rate is one of the most attractive in the region. On education, the government has religiously allocated 20% of our annual budget on education, come rain or shine, especially when our Prime Minister has now placed the development of our human resource as top on the agenda in our development strategy towards achieving our Vision 2020, i.e, for Malaysia to attain development country status by then. Similarly, the efforts on improving the government delivery system has been redoubled. While our civil service has been one of the most effective in implementing development policies of the Government in the past, the Government has recently set up the National Implementation Task Force (NITF) headed by the Prime Minister himself to ensure all projects identified for implementation in our 9th Malaysia Plan, covering the period 2006 - 2010, will be implemented speedily without delays. The Task Force has been meeting every two weeks, monitoring project implementation and resolving any hiccups that many arise.
7. In our effort to regroup and restart the economy, it was clear to all that economic growth alone was not sufficient. The wealth of nation must not only be created, but must also be distributed to a wider population. The trickle down effects were too slow and too little. In Malaysia, the Government decided to take the bull by the horns, when it introduced the New Economic Policy in 1970. Under lining this policy was a deliberate move to pursue the policy strategy of growth with equity. The objectives of The New Economic Policy or NEP was two-pronged: to eradicate poverty irrespective of race, and to restructure the Malaysia society so that no single race can be identified largely by their professional and economic functions. At that time, the Malays and other indigenous people known as Bumiputera were mainly in the rural area, involved mainly in the agricultural sector, while some worked in government services; the Chinese were predominately in business and modern professions; and the Indians in estates and as professionals.
8. The measures to eradicate poverty were many and varied. The main one was through education as a means to bring out children of the poor from the vicious circle of poverty, through various aids to poor students in primary and secondary schools, such as free text books, free breakfast to student to ensure their stomachs are not empty when they try to follow lessons in school, and free school uniforms as well as scholarships for poor students. For good students, they were selected to study in boarding schools set up by the Government all over the country, with modern facilities and proper environment for study. For students who obtained excellent results, many were sponsored to study overseas in sciences, engineering and medicine. Thousands were sent abroad every year since the 70s, and when they returned they were able to hold good positions in both the government and private sectors, not only placing them above the poverty line, but they subsequently helped their families especially brothers and sisters to get better education to likewise come out of poverty. I am tempted to admit that I was one among the many who benefited from this policy on education, as I came from a poor fishing family in a remote fishing village in Kelantan. I manage to get a place in a government boarding school, and subsequently obtained scholarships to study in the United States for my first degree, Masters Degree and finally a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Probably not many countries exist anywhere, where the children of the poor have been so fortunate and taken care of so well by the Government to improve themselves through education, and they in turn served the country well to make it a better place for all.
9. I should also mentioned another successful programme to help the poor, at the same time helping the Bumiputera group to participate in the corporate sector, which is through the National Unit Trust Scheme. The Government set up a National Unit Trust Corporation to mobilize savings from Bumiputera to be invested in Unit Trust managed by this Corporation. The corporation in turn invests these savings in shares of listed companies, and gives returns to unit trust holders by way of dividends. When a company lists its shares on the stocks exchange, as part of the NEP, 30% of the shares to be listed are required to be held by Bumiputera, including by the Unit Trust Corporation I mentioned earlier, holding in trust for the Bumiputera through the unit trust schemes. In the 1970s until the Asian Financial Crisis 1997, the share price had gone up substantially and the dividends given to unit trust investors were very attractive, benefiting the poor and Bumiputera investors a great deal. This at the same time brought greater number of Bumiputera closer to
10. The government had even introduced a special unit trust scheme for the hard core poor. Each selected poor family was given a loan by the government of RM5,000 to buy unit trust for investment through Unit Trust Corporation. Dividends paid annually were deducted in part towards settlement of the loan, and the balance amount is given back to the hard-core family as dividend for them to supplement their income. Of course the family cannot redeem the Unit Trust before the loan is paid off fully.
12. In terms of the restructuring of society the success have been equally encouraging. In 1970 the Bumiputera holding of corporate equity in the country was a mere 2%. Today it amounts close to 20%. While this falls short of the 30% target set out in the NEP, the Government has restated the objective to achieve the 30% by the year 2020.
13. Perhaps because of the NEP and liberal Government policy, social mobility has been a strong point for Malaysia. The poor and less fortunate can dream to be successful and many have succeeded. The women in the country can be as successful as men, be it in the government sector or out in the market place. There is no barrier and no glass ceiling. Malaysia has benefited a great deal from this half of the population, as they are not marginalized to the informal sector. Ministers, Secretaries General of Ministries, and senior government officials, many are women. And 60% of the students in Malaysia universities today are women.
14. Overall, the NEP has done well for Malaysia. The sharing of economic cake by major races in the country has become more evident. Economic growth during the NEP period 1970-1990 averages close to 7% a year in real terms. Inflation has always been under control at around 3% annually. The balance of payments has traditional been strong, with international reserves amounting to US75 billion today, enough to sustain 7 months of retained imports. Fiscal deficit is low at 3.5% today and the country never fails to record operating surplus every year. Government financial discipline has always been another hallmark of our public policy. Our external debt is less than 10% of the total federal debt, and much of the new borrowing is sourced domestically, facilatated by the ample liquidity situation in the country currently.
15. Our economy too has undergone substantial structural change for the better. From a near banana republic at the time of independence it is more much diversified now. Our major exports comprise of manufacturing goods 81.6 %, palm oil 6 %, oil 9.6 %, trade represents 200 % of our economy and Malaysia is now the 17th largest trading nation in the world. The quality of life has likewise improved with the average life span increasing to 71 years for men and 76 years for women. Literacy rate has gone up to more than 95% compared with 85.0% in 1991 and 76.0% in the year 1980. The country's per capita income, adjusted for purchasing power parity, has exceeded USD11,000.
16. There are certainly many factors, which contributed to the success of the Malaysian experience. It will be impossible to list out all of them. But among the major ones must necessarily include the ability of the country to remain peaceful and stable, which formed the very foundation upon which the economy can growth and prosper. Political stability has always been preserved, as evident by the fact that the same political party has been in power since independence. Malaysia has been blessed with capable leaders and Prime Ministers who have been consistently and totally committed to bringing about economic development and improvement in the welfare of the people. Equally important is the wisdom of political leaders representing the ruling parties in the National Coalition Front, to work together and resolve amicably whatever political problems that arise from time to time to ensure political stability remains intact and development agenda vigorously pursued. There have been political problems in the past confronting various political parties at different times in our history. But in the end, the interest of the country, the welfare of the people and the unity of the party prevailed, brought to bear by the wisdom of the leaders and strong sense of loyalty by the people. None of these political problems could not be resolved in the past, and with such outstanding track record and cumulative wisdom, I am sure whatever exists today will be addressed and overcome successfully by the present leadership.
17. Finally, on the economic front, Malaysia will continue to work doubly hard to ensure its competitive edge will be maintained, and even enhanced, in the face of increasing global and regional competition. Malaysia has successfully been able to attract foreign investment in large numbers, which helped to drive the manufacturing sector especially in the earlier years. On average, FDI has contribute 30-40% of the total investment in the country annually. While this will continue to be welcome, Malaysian companies too are encouraged to go out and operate in the global and regional markets. Domestically, new growth areas have been identified in modern agriculture, biotechnology, ICT, biodiesel fuel, R&D activities and halal industry. The economic structure is expected to change further into greater depth in the services sector, as well as into higher value-added manufacturing activities. Malaysia's leading position in Islamic finance, ICT development through multi media super corridor, and Halal Hub will be more aggressively promoted. All these policies, strategies ad programmes will be supported by a strong policy push on education and training, towards generating enough qualified and skilled manpower to meet the rising and diverse demands of industry, particularly in technical and professional areas. The policy on human resource development could well hold the key to the ability of the country to achieve fully its Vision 2020. On that note, I wish everyone a fruitful seminar.
Ministry of Finance Malaysia, Putrajaya
|Terakhir Dikemaskini Isnin, 13 Februari 2012 10:52|