Re­searchers, NGOs and think tanks must be­gin dis­cus­sions on this long-term plan and con­trib­ute their per­spec­tive

New Straits Times - - News - The writer is chair­man of the Malaysian In­sti­tute of Eco­nomic Re­search (MIER)

IT is heart­en­ing to note that Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak is in­tro­duc­ing a new long-term vi­sion of the coun­try, ar­tic­u­lated in the Na­tional Trans­for­ma­tion 50 (TN50), which is be­ing de­lib­er­ated on and de­vel­oped now. Some con­sul­ta­tions on this mat­ter have started and this is laudable. Briefly, TN50 is an at­tempt to chart our next 30 years of so­cial and eco­nomic goals.

This, ex­pect­edly, will re­place Vi­sion 2020 of the Ma­hathir era, which shall come to end by 2020, when Malaysia is tar­geted to be a de­vel­oped na­tion “in its own mould”.

It is quite of­ten that the prime min­is­ter comes out with some so­cial and vi­sion­ary state­ments and then ex­pects us to dis­cuss and put the con­tent to them. This is per­haps to en­sure that there are el­e­ments of own­er­ship to the ideas and the plans that en­sue from these con­structs.

We hope some as­sess­ments can be done to Vi­sion 2020 to ex­am­ine the achieve­ments thus far. Vi­sion 2020 was pre­sented at a meet­ing of busi­ness and in­dus­try lead­ers in 1991 un­der the aus­pices of the Na­tional Busi­ness Coun­cil, of which the In­sti­tute of Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (ISIS) was the sec­re­tariat. Such an as­sess­ment will help us con­struct new base line eco­nomic and so­cial sta­tis­tics as well as set prac­ti­cal tar­gets for the new TN50 as well as the tar­gets for the var­i­ous five yearly plans en route to TN50.

As a long-term eco­nomic and so­cial plan, TN50 needs to be backed by sev­eral sup­port­ing stud­ies, plans and strate­gies cov­er­ing sev­eral ar­eas, such as de­mog­ra­phy, eco­nomic struc­ture, hu­man cap­i­tal mas­ter plan and not the least, so­cial con­cerns, too. These sup­port­ing stud­ies and plans will en­able pol­i­cy­mak­ers and plan­ners to in­cor­po­rate the ma­jor state­ments and ob­jec­tives of TN50, the way the govern­ment did the New Eco­nomic Pol­icy (NEP) and Out­line Per­spec­tive Plan (OPP) un­der­taken be­fore.

The ini­tia­tive of TN50 must be sup­ported and, in fact, taken se­ri­ously for it should ar­tic­u­late the long-term ob­jec­tives of the na­tion as we move to­wards Bangsa Malaysia and as we strive to find a niche in the global com­mu­nity of na­tions. The geopo­lit­i­cal changes, the chang­ing mar­ket dy­nam­ics and the in­tense com­pe­ti­tion de­mand na­tions be adap­tive, in­no­va­tive, cre­ative and re­silient to sur­vive and to en­dure.

These ex­pec­ta­tions, novel and lofty that they are, ul­ti­mately have to be ar­tic­u­lated and trans­lated into words and slo­gans that can mo­bilise grass­roots sup­port while, at the same time, pro­vide enough guid­ance and di­rec­tion to tech­nocrats, such as the civil ser­vants and pol­i­cy­mak­ers, to de­sign poli­cies and strate­gies both in the medium term and short term so that long-term vi­sions are not de­railed.

Thus, re­searchers and think tanks as well as non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions must be­gin to ini­ti­ate dis­cus­sions and de­lib­er­a­tions

TUES­DAY, MAY 9, 2017 on this mat­ter and con­trib­ute to the lead­er­ship their per­spec­tives of this long-term con­cern. In fact, this is more ur­gent than the daily po­lit­i­cal bick­er­ing among us, which is a waste of time and de­rail­ing us from the big­ger mat­ters of the so­ci­ety.

The lead­er­ship in this mat­ter should be the Eco­nomic Plan­ning Unit, which has the ex­pe­ri­ences in un­der­tak­ing long-term so­cioe­co­nomic plans. It, in con­sul­ta­tion with cen­tral agen­cies, such as the Sta­tis­tics Depart­ment, the Fi­nance Min­istry and the cen­tral bank, can un­der­take long-term pro­jec­tions of de­mo­graphic pat­terns, labour force and em­ploy­ment struc­ture, eco­nomic struc­ture and other so­cial con­cerns, such as so­cial jus­tice and good gover­nance.

While these are ex­pected build­ing blocks for any long-term eco­nomic and so­cial plan, we can­not but need for the plan to ad­dress ma­jor so­cial con­cerns, such as na­tional unity and so­cial eco­nomic im­bal­ances, the pri­mary and over­rid­ing con­cern of the coun­try since the early 70s, which are still rel­e­vant till to­day.

Re­gard­ing these, the govern­ment must seek in­spi­ra­tion and hope from our na­tional phi­los­o­phy, the Rukun Ne­gara, which was con­ceived in the af­ter­math of in­tereth­nic tensions and great so­cial di­vide.

Mov­ing forward, Malaysia can­not af­ford di­vi­sive­ness, dis­cord and tech­no­log­i­cal back­ward­ness. We also need strong moral stand­ing in the eyes of the global com­mu­nity.

In this re­gard, some lo­cal ex­per­tise in these ex­er­cises can be ex­plored. Many may still be around though many of them are re­tired or are even de­ceased. A re­liance on lo­cal ca­pac­ity in this long-term soul-search­ing ex­er­cise is more ben­e­fi­cial rather than re­liance upon for­eign con­sul­tants, who may not have the in­sight of na­tional pri­or­i­ties and con­cerns. In­ti­mate knowl­edge and con­scious con­cern and pri­or­i­ties of the na­tion and its mul­tira­cial po­si­tion is a mat­ter that de­serves our ut­most at­ten­tion.

I ap­plaud the ef­fort and ini­tia­tive to ar­tic­u­late TN50 as the next na­tional blue­print to bring our peo­ple to greater heights. If Vi­sion 2020 was ar­tic­u­lated mainly by busi­ness­men, let TN50 in­volve peo­ples from all walks of life to en­sure they in­ter­nalise the ob­jec­tives and as­pi­ra­tions of the trans­for­ma­tion plan for the ben­e­fit of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Deputy Tourism and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Datuk Mas Er­miey­ati Sam­sudin (sec­ond from left) tak­ing self­ies with youth at a TN50 town­hall in Masjid Tanah, Melaka re­cently. TN50 will chart the next 30 years of the na­tion’s so­cial and eco­nomic goals.

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