Malaysia is well on the way to high-income status, says PM Najib

Economy June 10, 2014 00:00

By Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
The Na

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A gateway to Asean with significant investment opportunities, meet told

Malaysia is successfully undergoing a major transformation process to become a high-income economy by 2020, through vast improvements in the country’s inclusiveness and sustainability, its prime minister says.
In a speech to a trade and investment forum called “Invest Malaysia” held yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, Najib Razak said his country offered significant opportunities – as an investment destination in its own right, and as a gateway to Asean. 
Organised by Bursa Malaysia and CIMB Investment Bank, the investment forum was meant to showcase Malaysia’s advantage as Asean’s multinational marketplace.
Najib said 2015 would be a challenging year both politically and economically as the Asean Economic Community is fully implemented. Malaysia needs to prepare itself for where it wants to be in the future under AEC. The country has set up a management office to enhance cooperation between the government and the private sector on AEC initiatives.
“Our economy is developing fast – with strong growth, phased liberalisation, and greater connectivity. We are on track to reach our national economic ambition: to become a high-income nation by 2020, one of the few countries to cross the threshold this century,” he said. 
Najib said that under the Economic Transformation Programme, which guides Malaysia’s economic development, the country aimed to attract 1.23 trillion ringgit (Bt12.5 trillion) in private investment by the end of the decade. Foreign capital will continue to build the businesses, infrastructure and confidence on which Malaysia’s economic success depends. 
“In the four years since the programme began, we’ve seen some headline achievements – from soaring gross national income to huge increases in competitiveness,” Najib said. He said the country was headed towards high-income status and building up a more sustainable economy, with greater opportunity for young people, a more accessible financial sector, and a clear balance between macro achievements and individual success. 
“We must create growth that is lasting, and an open, inclusive economy – an economy where national development and individual ambitions unite behind common goals,” he said.
Najib said Malaysia’s economy rested on strong foundations. Since the Asian financial crisis, the country has focused on the fundamentals: creating a strong and stable financial architecture, opening its economy to foreign investment, and directing resources and policies towards key economic priorities. 
Last year, the country’s gross domestic product grew by 4.7 per cent. In the first quarter of 2014, it was 6.2 per cent year on year, exceeding expectations. 
He said that thanks to healthy labour-market conditions and sustained income growth, private consumption grew 7.6 per cent in 2013, compared with 6.9 per cent in 2010. 
It now accounts for 51.2 per cent of GDP, well on course to achieve around 60 per cent of GDP by 2020. 
The country’s private investment has also surged, growing 15.3 per cent between 2010 and 2013 – more than triple the compounded annual growth rate compared to the previous three-year period. Total private investment last year reached 161.1 billion ringgit – surpassing the target for the year by some 8.6 per cent, and almost double the 86.7 billion ringgit invested in 2010. 
Najib said this investment had been put to productive use, helping to create jobs and grow stronger businesses. Malaysian companies’ market capitalisation has grown by 184 per cent since 2009. Back then, there were 194 publicly listed companies with income over 500 million ringgit. Today, there are 274. And sectors in the National Key Economic Areas have created a total of 1.3 million additional high-value jobs in the past three years. 
“Alongside our efforts to build a strong economic base, we have introduced a series of policies to make it easier – and more attractive – to live, invest and do business here in Malaysia. These, too, are paying off,” Najub said.
Idris Jala, chief executive officer of the government’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) and minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said Malaysia’s transformation had been actively conducted in many areas, including fiscal policy and disciplined governance. These included the reduction of subsidies and improved value management; measures to improve the living quality of rural and poor people, as well as women, and in transparency and accountability.
“We have set an ambition to reduce global carbon intensity by 40 per cent by 2020, driven by the growth of the service sector and a solid-waste management programme,” he said.
Fredrico Gil Sander, senior country economist for the World Bank, said one of Malaysia’s biggest advantages was its openness to international business communities, which had encouraged rapid improvement in its global competitiveness.
Last year, in recognition of the significant opportunities for further growth in the region, the Securities Commission Malaysia, together with the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand, signed memoranda of understanding to enable fund managers from these three jurisdictions to offer collective investment schemes to retail investors within the signatory countries.