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Speech By
H.E. Lim Guan Eng
Minister of Finance, Malaysia

As Chairperson
Of The Constituency of Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, Indonesia,Lao PDR, Malaysia,
Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam

At The Development Committee Ministerial Meetings Of The World Bank In
Washington, D.C.

19 October 2019



Heightened trade tensions, subdued investment and the breakdown of multilateralism aptly summarise the challenges for Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs), like ours, to maintain the growth momentum and safeguard our financial and macroeconomic stability.

Despite the dampening economic outlook, our constituency’s long-term fundamentals remain intact, supported by robust domestic consumption, the growing middle class and rapid urbanisation. This year our region’s growth rate is projected to slowdown slightly, but we are still growing at a projected rate of 4.6%, higher than the projected global growth of 3%.

Whilst we face our respective domestic fiscal challenges, our growth momentum is inhibited by protectionism which threatens the multilateral trading system, technological disruptions and climate change. We agree with the WBG’s approach to advocate multilateral cooperation to reduce trade dispute among member countries and realise the aspiration of building free, predictable and stable trade and investment environment.

We also need to further intensify our international collaboration and cooperation through a multilateral framework, where digitalisation can be a freely available, accessible and affordable platform for all in the following areas: 

  • Emerging cross borders issues such as digital trade, taxation and climate change to ensure there is no loss of economic sovereignty and monetary control by smaller countries; and
  • Cybersecurity issues, privacy and data flows to ensure that we can fully benefit from digital revolution.
  • Reinforce institutional reforms to improve transparency and accountability as well as battle corruption.
  • Building human capital skills and capacity and improve connectivity and mobility to fully leverage on the global digital revolution to mitigate or minimise the impact of job losses. 

The World Bank Group estimates that 75 million jobs will be lost from digital disruption. Therefore investment that creates new jobs is required to replace them. We look forward to working together with the World Bank Group(WBG) President Mr David Malpass to formulate sound and effective policies for sustainable growth and shared prosperity. 

The WBG must also establish debt transparency to build a foundation that promotes clarity, consistency and certainty. The present definition of government’s debts that only includes direct debts borrowings is inadequate. Government guarantees or liabilities that have been committed or crystalised due to default by the principal borrowers, are not covered. 

This does not give a correct or accurate picture of the government actual debt position. In fact, this loophole permits manipulation by limiting direct debt and pushing everything else to government guarantees or liabilities to hide the actual heightened or worsening government debt position. 

Finally, we urge the WBG to continue to expand its analytical works and policy recommendations for middle-income economies to facilitate their transition to developed high income status. Thank you.