LETTER | Against the backdrop of the middle-income trap with a primarily low-skilled job market, premature deindustrialisation since the end '90s, leakages and corruption, the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 at a first glance seems like a tall order.
Consider the following:
1. Shared prosperity, yes, but we must look at inequality with caution. As much as we would like to improve income and reduce inequality, advanced free-market economies in the West (where Malaysian economy shows some resemblance) have shown widening income inequalities, despite much less structural problems in the economy.
This points towards the fact that free-market economies (no matter in what form) while may lead to higher income, may not necessarily ensure fair distribution of income and wealth. On the contrary, recent evidence shows that they lead to widening inequality in the West.
2. To grow the economy (enlarge the economic "pie") and become a high-income nation, innovation (refer to Schumpeter's creative destruction) is required, where R&D plays a crucial role.
A conducive national innovation ecosystem is essential for innovation, with universities and research institutes playing a pivotal role. A strong university-industry linkage is a necessity whereas a good education system is essential to create an innovative society and produce highly-skilled workers for the economy.
Malaysia currently is nowhere near. So shall we drop 2030 and be more realistic?
3. Shared prosperity should be looked at in the wider perspective of improving the overall wellbeing of every Malaysian where income/wealth is only one of the important dimensions.
The higher objective should be to produce jiwa yang merdeka (free and independent souls), a product of Amartya Sen's/Mahbub ul Haq's human functioning and capabilities and Rib’i ibn Amir's quest to free human souls from all forms of oppression.
In summary, there is no doubt that we must strive for shared prosperity.
However, against the backdrops stated and the points outlined above, we must also be cautious, realistic and pragmatic at the same time.
The devil is in the details. We must be optimistic for a better future for all Malaysians, and yet there's also reason to be sceptical. A tall order indeed.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.