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Should we believe PwC on where we’re headed, or TN50?

LETTER | A couple of days ago, a few friends sent a message listing PwC’s prediction of the 21 most powerful economies in 2030. The report actually ranked Malaysia at 27th in 2016 and 25th in that year.

At first glance, it really did not matter to me, since our beloved country’s target of being in the top 20 will be in 2050!

But PwC also released a separate prediction for the year 2050. Our dream of being in the top 20 in 2050 does not match with the longer-term view by PwC on the projected global economic order then.

The modelling approach in the forecast focuses on the fundamental drivers of growth, demographics and productivity, which in turn is driven by technological progress, and diffused through international trade and investment. It is based on GDP at purchasing power parity (PPP), which was constant at 2016 prices.

In 2050, Malaysia is projected to improve by one spot only, to 24th. Indonesia will be flying high at a lofty 4th. The Philippines, Vietnam and even Bangladesh will overtake us, sitting pretty ranked at 19th, 20th and 23rd respectively. Vietnam in 2016 was at 32nd spot.

The average GDP growth per annum (in domestic currency) for Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines between 2016 to 2050 is projected to be 5 percent, 4.8 percent and 4.3 percent respectively. Malaysia is sadly lagging behind at 3.5 percent.

As a concerned citizen, I am worried about the rate of our progress.

It has been said that between now and 2050, growth is to be driven largely by emerging markets and developing countries.

Today, we are chest-thumping and proud of the growth numbers we achieved last year, but historically, growth is a cycle of ups and downs. Not to be too pessimistic, down the road, we may be chest-beating if we are complacent and do not change for the better.

We have to be very careful in developing policies to achieve our dreams. There was Vision 2020, which I think will not be achieved. We had the New Economic Model (NEM) which was dropped soon after it was announced. Convincing us that we just can’t stick with anything would naturally produce negative vibes.

Following blindly the policies of other countries, or those espoused by international institutions may not achieve the same desired results.

We implemented the GST and on average, Malaysians are paying more taxes now. In the Meantime, subsidies and other forms of assistance were either stopped or reduced, especially for food items.

Malaysians are now grappling with high cost of living and inflation numbers that touched 4.3 percent in September last year.

We must have political systems that invest in public goods (such as health and education) including significant policy reform and innovation to make radical changes to the traditional education ecosystem.

According to Bank Negara, the state of financial literacy among Malaysians leave much to be desired. Part of the problem for high household debts is due to this deficiency.

We not only need professional managers but also those with entrepreneurial spirit in our companies especially government-linked ones.

We need to learn how AirAsia knocks on China's door and does not need a minister to negotiate for more routes.

In November 2017, Felda under the Felda 2.0 programme said it wants to transform all its land into "smart cities" by 2050.

Sad to say after so long and so many promises of development, there are still issues on lack of infrastructure and facilities in rural areas. Not to mention some “dubious transactions.”

Apart from entrepreneurs, Malaysia needs to nurture and produce citizens with creative minds and patent their inventions. It goes without saying that these creative people should be given sufficient encouragements to avoid brain drain.

Real policy change is a major challenge and it requires commitment and determined efforts on the part of the government to carry through a policy, especially one which is not immediately successful or popular and affects the livelihood and well-being of the rakyat.

They also require real political leadership to maintain momentum on longer term issues like effects on the environment and poverty reduction – in our present context, the B40 group. There are cases or trends in increasing income inequality and weakening social cohesion.

Generally, ineffective government and governance leads to macroeconomic imbalances. A recent example is Greece with failing public administration and worsening legal system. If we are not careful, we may follow the same path.

Fresh from the oven, the Corruption Perception Index released today by Transparency International, does not bode well for our beloved country. Despite major attempts to combat corruption, we are seen to be making no progress and in fact, declining.

Malaysia dropped seven spots to 62nd position in 2017 - the lowest position since the TI index began in 1995.

Prophet Sulaiman possessed enormous wealth and assets. Accumulating wealth is not incompatible with the moral teachings of Islam. However, we are troubled when we see that the wicked, the corrupt and the perpetrators of evil have whatever they wish for in terms of wealth and perceived power, whilst those who are virtuous, good and honest are deprived of it all.

PwC or TN50 are not playing God. Allah had a plan for each of us before we were born. However, the plan is not cast in stone and He has a flexible plan for each human being - a plan that allows that person to benefit the world with his/her unique talents. “That is (without doubt) the True Day. So, whosoever wills, let him seek a place with (or a way to) His Lord (by obeying Him in this worldly life)!” [Surah An-Naba’ 78:39]

TN50 is surely is a good initiative, but I pray that TN50 will not be used to mobilise political support.

By the way, some people may just rubbish the PwC report, but was it not PwC that we engaged to do a cost-benefit study for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

What say you…

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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