By Barry Porter, Bloomberg

Najib sees early achievement of Mahathir's vision

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said the nation may reach high-income status two years ahead of target, as he seeks to convince voters of his economic achievements before the election is due within weeks.

Gross national income (GNI) could rise to RM1,931 per capita (US$15,000) in 2018, earlier than the target of 2020, Najib said in a televised speech late yesterday. The measure has increased from 49 percent since 2009, to RM12,838 (US$9,970) last year, the government estimates. Najib also pledged to give annual cash handouts to low-wage earners.

“The time has come for Malaysians to make a decision and I hope you make the right choice,” said Najib, 59, without indicating when the election will be held. On that note, he must dissolve Parliament by April 28 and hold a vote by the end of June.

Najib, who inherited a country in recession when he replaced Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as its leader in 2009, is focusing voters on his efforts to boost investments and improve incomes as he seeks a popular mandate for the first time. The ruling BN coalition won the last election in 2008 by its narrowest margin in more than five decades, prompting Abdullah to hand over the leadership mid-term.

A nation is considered high income when GNI per capita meets or exceeds RM16,066 (US$12,476), according to the World Bank. In 1991, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad laid out a 30-year plan known as ‘Vision 2020' aimed at earning Malaysia a high-income status by the end of the current decade.

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