Malaysia’s Focus on Green Initiatives
In the pandemic and post-pandemic world, Malaysia once again is indeed at the crossroads of its development journey. The need to move forward as one with a clear path of the economy is more important than ever.
Could it be one that is focused on green agenda? Will this be our new ‘moonshot’ project?
What is absent in Malaysia today is a national vision. That is, a 30-year vision for national development after the conclusion of Vision 2020 last year and the discontinuation of Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) in 2018.
The Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030) is a good start, but it is meant to supersede the New Economic Model (NEM) which ended last year.
Like NEM, SPV 2030 is a 10-year economic development which comprises two medium-term economic planning and 10 yearly budgets from this year until 2030.
It is indeed a concern when we have launched 2021 Budget, and now in the midst of formulating the next one with the absence of the first medium-term economic planning under SPV 2030, that is the 12th Malaysia Plan.
More worrying is when the government has SPV 2030 in place without announcing a national vision, which has always set a tone and direction to the economy since the New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched in 1971.
Since the NEP, the policy emphasis has revolved around two broad spectrums — growth and distribution. Finding the right balance between the two is always a challenge.
Perhaps the NEP, in the early stage of its implementation managed to strike a balance, at least in terms of its planning. Vision 2020 was indeed a turning point where the government had the guts to think big and look at development from a multi-dimensional perspective.
But, in the course of its execution, the emphasis appeared to be more about growth, where the target was to achieve the growth rate of seven to nine per cent per annum on average until last year.
The time has come to seriously focus more on a sustainable, green growth agenda. Although the issue of sustainability and climate change had somewhat appeared scatteredly under the realm of Vision 2020, it was only being formalised boldly in the NEM blueprint.
But still, the focus of NEM was still more about growth and less on the sustainable and inclusive objectives. However, NEM managed to address some crucial issues in Vision 2020, such as in quantifying its targets.
In 2017, the TN50 was launched, spanning from this year up until 2050. TN50 managed to organise more than 130 dialogues and gathered around 60,000 aspirations with close to 2 million people involved before it was abruptly discontinued in 2018 after the Barisan Nasional government lost the 14th General Election and Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over.
During the first anniversary of the PH government in 2019, the SPV 2030 was launched and now continued under the present Perikatan Nasional government. Although SPV 2030 puts more emphasis on distribution, the focus on growth, as well as on the sustainable agenda, is somewhat lacking.
Malaysia is now at an ideal time to chart a new narrative of the economy, to formulate a new national vision for the country in the next 20 or 30 years. What type of economic story do we want to envision?
Is it smart growth, where the focus is on innovation and digitalisation? Inclusive development, where the attention is more on addressing the issue of income and wealth inequality, or on sustainable economic model, where the emphasis would be more on the green agenda?
A new green deal to me is more than merely about climate change or circular economy. Most importantly, it is also about human shared development with the focus on the concept of capability and sustainability.
We have heard economists from the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, United Nations, or the World Economic Forum discussing this.
Perhaps it is time for us to get fresh insights from our own economic history and draw lessons from that to move forward.