Developed nation in the total sense

  • Business
  • Saturday, 15 Mar 2014

FORMER Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is right. The proponent of Vision 2020 this week said the ultimate goal of Vision 2020 will not be achieved.

He attributed the reason to the fixation with labelling Malaysia a developed nation based on its income levels by 2020.

The idea is that should Malaysia achieve a gross national income (GNI) per capita of US$15,000 (RM49,175) by 2020, it would meet the World Bank’s threshold of a high-income economy by that time.

The plan to drive income up to that level is via various economic spurring investments, particularly in clusters called National Key Economic Areas. Aiding that plan are the Strategic Reform Initiatives, and by investing and spending vast amounts of money, incomes too should sprint towards that threshold number by default and design.

It would appear then that the common factor in achieving high-income and developed-nation status is money. But that is where it ends.

Vision 2020 is not all about the money. When Dr Mahathir spelt out Vision 2020 in 1991, he asked aloud just what was a fully developed country?

“Do we want to be like any particular country of the present 19 countries that are generally regarded as ‘developed countries’? Do we want to be like the United Kingdom, like Canada, like Holland, like Sweden, like Finland, like Japan? To be sure, each of the 19, out of a world community of more than 160 states, has its strengths.

“But each also has its fair share of weaknesses. Without being a duplicate of any of them, we can still be developed. We should be a developed country in our own mould. “Malaysia should not be developed only in the economic sense. It must be a nation that is fully developed along all the dimensions: economically, politically, socially, spiritually, psychologically and culturally. We must be fully developed in terms of national unity and social cohesion, in terms of our economy, in terms of social justice, political stability, system of government, quality of life, social and spiritual values, national pride and confidence,” said the-then Prime Minister all those years ago.

Just take a look at countries that have a high GNI per capita and you would see many that have progressed in not just monetary terms.

The question is: Where do we stand as a country when it comes to the non-monetary indicators or benchmarks?

Malaysia surely has been improving on its competitiveness. Red tape has been cut and the ease of doing business has improved. In fact, the wheels that grease the economy is always the focus of authorities, constantly being tweaked and improved to ensure businesses and investments continue to prosper.

There is nothing wrong in that, as one of the main responsibilities of any government is to provide jobs and security. Healthcare is also a plus point in our efforts thus far, given the depth and universality of coverage.

As a matter of fact, in some ways, glimpses of the high-income status are already on display. Some would say that Kuala Lumpur’s GNI per capita is well above the US$15,000 average, but for those who reside in the city, does the capital feel like a high-income country?

In terms of social, spiritual, psychological and cultural benchmarks, there is, in fact, a long way to go. High-income countries are essentially places where the general feeling is that things work. Sure there are hiccups, but in general, they function in a far better manner than the average.

Socially, there is much more apathy in society than what most developed countries exhibit. Culture is also not a strong point in Malaysia, as although diversity is there, the promotion and appreciation of culture, and by extension the immersiveness of it in various layers of society, is shallow.

Although literacy is high, people also lament the declining standards of education. Science and technology are not promoted enough and the big problem is that not many students are interested in studying science, even in secondary schools.

It’s time efforts are also made towards elevating the soft infrastructure in Malaysia for the country to be classified as a developed country instead of just a high-income nation.

Business editor (features) Jagdev Singh Sidhu feels there should be inclusiveness when it comes to development and progress.

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