RSOG Policy Discourse Series
Shared Prosperity – What Does It Mean To You And Me?
Mohd Nizam Mahshar
When: 14 May 2019
Where: Razak School of Government
Guest Speaker: Mohd Nizam Mahshar
The framework of the Session
One of the virtues often taught in early education, whether formal or informal, is the merit of sharing. Familiar old adages include “sharing is caring”, “problem shared is problem halved” and “berat sama dipikul, ringan sama dijinjing”. Technology-wise, the notion of sharing has expanded from how information is readily disseminated via various applications available to hopping into a car-ride with a stranger using multi-sided platforms. Suffice to say, there is no shortage of opportunities when it comes to sharing, regardless of the purpose, mode, or objective. Oftentimes, a positive result is derived when all parties involved agree to a common goal or have identical understanding. In the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan, the Government identified Shared Prosperity as a measure for development in Malaysia, with the general idea that Shared Prosperity will reduce wealth and income gaps, ensure equitable growth and contribute towards nation building. Is Shared Prosperity the sole responsibility of Putrajaya? How can Malaysians contribute towards Shared Prosperity? What could pose as barriers limiting the ideals of Shared Prosperity? In what ways would the pursuit of Shared Prosperity affect the lives of ordinary Malaysians? These are some of the key areas of concern that the guest speaker will share during the programme.
Key Takeaways from the Session
The word economy originated from the Greek. It is a composite word that combines the word household and distribution together, which means household management. Over time, it has evolved into indicating a specific economic system of a country or an area. However, its origins still play an important role in how ordinary citizens view the economy. Whenever a government introduces policies related to the economy, the question that often crops out is, “what is in it for me?” and “how does it affect my household and livelihood?”. The management of the economy and its growth has always been the obligation of the government, whether through the sultanate, the British hegemony or the Federation, as is the case of Malaysia. With the idea of Shared Prosperity unveiled by the Prime Minister on 9 May 2019, a session to further deliberate was conducted at Razak School of Government on 14 May 2019, essentially the first public discussion on the topic led by Encik Mohd Nizam Mahshar.
The notion of prosperity isn’t new as it was outlined as one of the challenges in Wawasan 2020 towards becoming a developed nation. More recently, the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan saw the Prime Minister suggesting that development must be seen as increasing people’s purchasing power and having the types of development that are enjoyed by all citizens – hence the idea of Shared Prosperity. With this goal in mind, Institute MASA was tasked to develop the framework, with strategies and action plan as part of the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan, working closely with Ministry of Economic Affairs (previously the Economic Planning Unit was responsible for the development of Malaysia Plans). One thing that was visible in the series of engagements and private consultations prior to the development of Shared Prosperity is that some form of resentment and distrust at the government was apparent and there is a need to find the middle ground in convincing stakeholders and the broader public of this drive towards the prosperous economy for all.
The resentment or distrust is unsurprising considering how open the discussion on anything related to national agenda has been for the past years. This is aided with the influx of information technology and communication platforms that facilitate discussions or allow the public the opportunity to air dissatisfaction at their fingertips. Instituting change or driving policy reform at this day and age would pose to be a enormous task but it remains a task that is needed to be done should Malaysia aim to compete in Asia as it becomes the dominant region in years to come.
Based on the situational analysis undertaken, wealth disparity, development imbalance and vulnerability were unveiled. Some interesting and worrying findings also include how at least 5 million households are in a state of deprivation and insecurity, such as running out of cash within a week of losing a source of income and inadequate retirement funding. In addition, development imbalances also extend between rural and urban areas based on their mean household income per capita. With regard to employment, the number of jobs created for the past ten years is focusing on low-skilled jobs and contribution to future economy seem to be stunted. One of the more concerning findings is that the economic ecosystem and supply chain of Bumiputera is seen to be as ineffective and incomplete, therefore aids little in elevating the income growth of the group as a whole.
Considering the discovery of such imbalance, consultations and engagements were conducted for the formulation of Shared Prosperity’s idea as an opportunity to take appropriate action. 15 guiding principles were identified, along with seven (7) thrusts and eight (8) enablers to achieve three (3) objectives of managing inequality, ensuring high growth, and safeguarding a united, prosperous and dignified nation for all Malaysians. One of the suggestions is the utilisation of the right indicator to measure the progress of implementation. For record, Malaysia has always utilised the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measurement of development, and Gross National Income (GNI) was later introduced. Having a fool proof indicator helps in ensuring that Shared Prosperity does not become a mere vague aspiration and measurement of the solution must take practicality into consideration. The Guest Speaker goes further to suggest that there is a need to observe spending trends when trying to make assumptions about development and growth.
As a citizen, a worker, and a taxpayer, it is natural to be concerned about income growth as it should reflect the amount of effort and work exhausted. Despite the number of policies and programmes introduced, some imbalances remain, and the pursuit of recalibrating seems an uphill task. What can be done by ordinary citizens is to have the shift in mindset by saying no to corruption and not taking what is beyond one’s entitlement, becoming more efficient and productive, and becoming more tolerant to new ideas. It is the duty of every individual to stop the vicious cycle of not sharing prosperity rightfully that has prevented the nation to move forward.
Key issues raised
- From an economic point of view, the ten-year plan is too short a time-frame to see any meaningful difference or impact in the plan. However, Malaysia’s planning is based on this quantum and policymakers would need to translate it as best it could.
- While indicators may be worrying, it is pivotal not to mask the figures, ignore the signs, or worse, sugar-coat the information. To keep government accountable, the policies proposed need to be documented and implementation recorded.
- Effective and meaningful participation is needed to ensure the public gets aboard with the proposed plan or initiative by the government. It is also important to ensure that stakeholders play their rightful roles in supporting this initiative.
- Equally of an importance in eradicating corruption, cartels must also be addressed as it creates unfair competition and disrupts the distribution of economy.
- Cohesive social capital is identified as one of the core guiding principles and it could be one of the main ways to address distrust and encourage social mobility.
About the Speaker
Mohd Nizam Mahshar is presently the board member and Acting Chief Executive Officer of the newly formed Institut Masa Depan Malaysia (Institut MASA) – a think tank mandated to carry out empirical and scientific research in various fields for the development of the Malays and Malaysia. Apart from the institute, Mohd Nizam Mahshar also sits on the National Economic Action Council (NEAC 2.0). Previously, he helmed leadership roles, amongst others at the International Development and Research Institute in Sustainability and Malay Economic Action Council.