Malaysia would achieve Vision 2020 if the reported RM1.8 trillion that was placed in foreign offshore accounts were brought back to the country, said veteran economist Tan Sri Kamal Salih.
Speaking in a lecture on Wednesday (1 June) night, Kamal, who is also the former chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) said the amount, which was leaked through the Pandora Papers report last year, indicated the unwarranted funds raised in the country but deposited in offshore accounts.
Kamal then referred to the country’s national gross domestic product (GDP) output over the past decades was RM1.6 trillion and the national debt that hovered around RM1.4 trillion.
“Imagine what the country could have done and achieved if the amount overseas was brought back to stimulate our economy and reduce our debt,” said Kamal.
Kamal was the founding executive director of MIER from 1986 to 1994 and he later served as its chairman from 2019 to 2021. He also used to advise the government on economic policy matters when he was heading MIER.
The amount was obtained through the online leak of the Pandora Papers last year, which aims to incriminate global politicians and the wealthy for tax avoidance and generating illicit funds from corruption.
The outflow was reported to had happen between 2005 and 2015 as highlighted by the Global Financial Integrity report, on which the Pandora Papers’ authors based their reporting.
While the country’s economy is now recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, Kamal said that there’s a need for the government to formulate new strategies to spark real growth in the economy.
“Despite the outflow of funds, Malaysia relatively remains a rich nation. Otherwise, how can we create four million jobs for foreigners here?” said Kamal.
He added that the economy should be managed in a way that ensures the prosperity can be enjoyed by a wider spectrum of the people.
Thus, he proposed that the government invests in a new cash crop and move away from rubber and palm oil which are now dominated by Indonesia and Thailand.
The new crop is the fast-growing “Paulownia Tomentosa” and its benefits are now no longer just confined to timber but as an element which can replace steel. The tree trunks can be components for the body of the lightweight electrical cars and used as ingredients for herbal products. In addition, its roots can help control land erosion.
He also suggests that the new crop be cultivated in Sabah and Sarawak as the states have huge land banks.
Meanwhile, he also said that the government should pay more attention to farming so as to ensure ensure food security in the country.
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