It was a near miracle that Malaysia was not bankrupted due to the damage done by the previous kleptocratic regime as they turned the nation’s coffers into their personal kitty, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
The prime minister said the damage was not just financial, but institutional as well.
“One of the biggest challenges after successfully toppling the kleptocratic regime was mopping up the mess left behind and rebuilding the nation,” he said in his keynote address at the ISIS Malaysia Praxis Conference “Malaysia Beyond 2020”, in Kuala Lumpur.
Dr Mahathir said it would take a lot of effort, time and money, adding that “what we found after we took over was far worse than what we believed was the damaged caused.”
“While 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) is without doubt a monstrosity, we will never be able to fully fathom the damage it caused the nation,” he said.
Beyond the corruption and the financial shenanigans, the prime minister said, the whole machinery of Government was subverted and weakened.
He said a considerable amount of government revenue now has to go to pay debts, leaving inadequate funds for operation and development.
“It is a near miracle that this country was not bankrupted,” he said, adding that for the country to recover and to grow, the machinery of government must be restored and made efficient.
“This means zero corruption, if possible. All efforts have been made to achieve this. Maybe we have achieved some success because growth has been maintained,” he said.
He noted that some of the targets set out in the Vision 2020, crafted in 1991 by the government led by himself then, towards turning Malaysia into a developed nation by 2020, would not be achievable by next year, having been derailed by self-serving leaders.
These targets have not been abandoned, but have been incorporated into the Shared Prosperity blueprint and what the nation will be unable to achieve next year, hopefully would be achieved by 2030 and beyond, he said.
He said while the country aims to increase the incomes of all groups, ethnic, urban, rural or states, it must also work to upskill Malaysians in various sectors.
“The bottom line is that we want to provide a decent standard of living for all Malaysians, and hopefully regain our status as an Asian Tiger,” he said.
“The objective is to make every single Malaysian feel that he or she has a stake in the country, and to achieve that we have to ensure sustainable development and a fair distribution of economic wealth through equitable growth at all levels of incomes, ethnic groups, states and regions,” he stressed
Dr Mahathir said it was not merely a dream, and that the government has incorporated the Shared Prosperity strategies into the country’s 2020 Budget and expected that it would be all systems go by 2021.
Malaysia’s human resources need to be developed so as to be agile in adapting torapid technological advancement, as smart technology allows developing countries to leapfrog developed ones of a more conventional era, he said.
He said a new Malaysian society that is psychologically liberated, secure and developed must be created, and a mature democratic society should be the objective.
“A fully moral and ethical society must also be established, being mindful of past lessons. Likewise a mature and tolerant society must be nurtured, while disparities are reduced,” he said.
Systems, institutions and practices must ensure the creation of an economically just society, said Dr Mahathir, adding that the country’s future stability will then be assured and sustained.
“There has been progress in meeting some of these challenges, even if it has not been consistent.
"What is more important is that as we stand together on the threshold of 2020, we must learn from our past shortcomings and redouble our efforts,” he told the two-day conference organised by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, which ends tomorrow.