The 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) was presented by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob in the Parliament sitting yesterday (27 September) and the government is set to introduce a series of initiatives and policies to put Malaysia back on track for a high income nation.
However, it seems that the agenda of shared prosperity and inclusiveness as promoted under the 12MP will remain a lip service without the political will to make sure it happens.
The remark was made by the Selayang Member of Parliament (MP), William Leong who criticised the race-based policies that is being continued by the Malaysian government, according to FMT.
Among the examples were the proposed 51% Bumiputera shareholding requirement for freight forwarders, and racial quotes on admissions to public universities as examples that went against aspirations of a more inclusive society.
“We cannot hope to share our prosperity if we cannot first learn to share our society. We cannot speak of social cohesion and inclusiveness when our country’s dominant groups do not fully include others into the society.” he said.
Leong also shared that the political leaders had constantly exploit fears and prejudices based on differences and insecurities among people, deepening divisions that are against the shared society concept.
“Hence, it is hypocritical to talk of a 12th Malaysia Plan providing a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable country.” he said.
In addition, he also shared that the society concept was raised after 64 years of Merdeka, while some people were still called “pendatang” and are reminded they were second-class citizens.
“The tragedy is those who make these statements are allowed to get away with it and will appear to be allowed to repeat them with impunity. The real test lies in the political will of those implementing the programmes under the 12th Malaysia Plan to carry out the reforms needed.” he said.
Meanwhile, economists echoed similar views on the 12MP, where they said the metrics used in the plan do not account for inequalities or the standard of living.
According to Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak, he said that looking at average household income could be deceptive, as it does not take into account gaps between the rich and the poor.
Nonetheless, he suggested the government develop new qualitative and quantitative indexes in order to gauge whether people’s lives are improving, taking into account aspects like happiness rather than just earnings.
On the other hand, Yeah Kim Leng of Sunway University agreed with it and said that the metrics that measure income inequality, such as the Gini coefficient, must also be prioritised as the country pursues high-income status.
“It is a good aspiration, but only if growth is equitably distributed. Inequality is a major issue everywhere.”
“The rich, the ‘haves’, will be best positioned to benefit from Malaysia’s recovery, but the ‘have nots’ and vulnerable groups like the young, women and single parents will face difficulties.” he said.
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