Idris: We chose the road less travelled

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 23 Mar 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia chose the “Road Less Travelled” when it embarked on its transformation plan, says Pemandu president and CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

Quoting the famous poem by Robert Frost, Idris said when he was asked to join the Government in 2009, it was at a crossroads.

He said a survey showed that 90% of the high-income nations had achieved their status via the “road most travelled.”

“However, there was a wide income disparity and unsustainable fiscal position with high government debt and fiscal deficit in these countries,” he said at the Global Transformation Forum 2017.

He cited countries like Greece, Japan, the United States and Italy which had high government debt levels, describing it as a floating iceberg.

“That was the pathway we followed until 2009. We looked at that road and we didn’t like it,” said Idris.

Malaysia, he said, decided to instead take the road less travelled, which was being followed by countries like Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark that had manageable debt levels and a sustainable fiscal position.

To put this into place, he said the Government made so many promises in the Economic and the Government Transformation Programmes that it was almost akin to being “pregnant”.

“And when you’re pregnant, you have to deliver,” he said to laughter from the delegates.

Following the introduction of these programmes, Idris said Malaysia had managed to narrow its gap of 33% on the middle income level to 15% as well as reduce its fiscal deficit from 6.7% of the GDP in 2009 to 3.1% in 2016.

“We are no longer stuck in middle income.”

The Government’s aggregate KPI scores on its performance, he added, were also consistently ahead of target in every report, with 106% in 2015.

The next report on the KPI for 2016 will be out on April 25.

Sharing an anecdote, Idris said when he was in the Government, the Prime Minister would often call the ministers on a Friday when something that was supposed to be implemented was not carried out.

“Why Friday? So their weekend would be spoilt,” he quipped.

Closing his session with a recital of the poem, Idris said there were three transformational leadership qualities – pursuit of the impossible game, ruthlessness in prioritisation and discipline of action.

Close to 3,000 delegates from 76 countries are attending the Global Transformation Forum.

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